Meeting the Outlaw Jesse James

The poem posted below is taken from my slowly developing manuscript titled Breath of a Devil: the Untold Story of the Outlaw Jesse James. In it, my story’s fictitious narrator, Silas Thatch, describes the moment he met Jesse James. As I hope you’ll see, Silas is immediately taken by the young James, hypnotized by a strange power the future outlaw seems to possess.

Jesse (left) and Frank James as boys.

We was Both 10, or So

I first seen Jesse back in Clay County.
It was a hot day, dry as bone. Dust drifted
all over, sheets of it, draping horse and man

like a powder. Made the world wanna cough
and I think it must’ve done just that a time or two.
But even through that dust I seen’em –

eyes as blue as heaven, Jesse’s eyes.
His ma was tuggin’ him across the street,
yankin’ him by the hand and he just stumbled

along after her not wantin’ any part of where they
was goin’. Ma James, cause that’s what I learned
to call her, stopped to chaw with another lady.

Jesse, one hand locked in his ma’s hand,
stood there still as stone, his eyes burnin’
like blue fire. I almost ran and hid when them eyes

caught mine. They bore down on me, heavy as heat,
but I kept lookin’ back. Not cause I was a brave one,
but cause I couldn’t move until they let me go.

Once Ma James pulled on Jesse’s arm again,
those eyes turned away a let me free.
Funny thing, sure as a chirpy bird in a iron mine,

I felt like I was in a place I didn’t belong
and, like some sissy, I started to cry.
Tears dried, but Jesse’s eyes scarred

me enough to want to feel their teeth again.
Ya see, Jesse was a sweet poison, his eyes
and all he was: his laugh, his scowl, his bite,

and his hate. He smeared it on ya like sugar
You took to lickin’ it off as if it was life itself
and then all ya wanted was more.


13 thoughts on “Meeting the Outlaw Jesse James

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