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Colorado Poet Robert Cooperman ~ “John Sprockett and the No Longer Useful Guides”


John Sprockett and the No Longer Useful 

Guides to Lawrence, Kansas, August, 1863

By Colorado Poet Robert Cooperman

Narration By Roger Netzer


That first time I was ordered

by Captain Quantrill to shoot

an Abolitionist we’d kidnapped,

leave him in the buffalo grass, I couldn’t,

even with my reputation for rage:

him with a wife and daughter.

Besides he sat stoic as the Baptist

about to lose his holy head

when we shoved him onto the lead wagon

loaded with provisions we’d taken

from his dry goods store, and told him

to guide us: knowing what would happen

when he grew unsure of the route.


But like I said, he went quiet as a spy

caught behind enemy lines, so’s I couldn’t

back-shoot him, let alone full in his face,

that unlike mine, wasn’t grizzly-ripped.

Instead, when I marched him into

the peaceful, waving grass, I knocked

him down, blasted into the blue sky,

and told him if he wanted his health,

to lie still for a good ten minutes.


But the next time, Captain sent

Ben Sanders with me.  Afterwards,

he kicked the corpse like a tin can

and unbuttoned his trousers, to piss on

“The no-good, slave-loving sumbitch.”


“Don’t,” I said soft as windless snow.

Sanders backed away, told the Captain

the job was done, ‘cept the shot’ll

echo in my head ‘til the day I die.


But the third time, I didn’t hesitate.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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