GIVING IN TO LONESOME by Janice Gilbertson


by Janice Gilbertson

Her long legs, bony knees poking
At pantlegs, sunbleached and threadbare
Disappear into his kneehigh boots with
Burlap stuffed toes, and worn beyond repair

Her bare hands no longer noticing the cold
Are bent and fused until they feel no pain
The right rested in its place on her thigh
The left hand’s crooked fingers weave the rein

It is his tattered sheepskin coat she wears
Unbuttoned to the cold, early morning air
And it is his ole blue scarf ’round her throat
Shaped by his sweat and the knot he’d tied there

She quietly sits her beloved bay gelding
Narrow-chested and slightly splayed
He is stoved and gaunt with age
Hipbones wide and back some swayed

They stand for a moment just inside the gate
Both shifting old bodies for comfort’s sake
She legs his ribby side gently and turns
To ride the ancient fence north to the break

‘Neath a cast-iron sky without a glint of star
She rides through the dark before dawn
By the instincts of a thousand rides
They travel by memory of days bygone

There was a time she rode here on snorty colts
Their morning-fresh stride dancing her along
What a grand time she would have then,
Looking for that stray where it didn’t belong

There are no cattle now, not for a decade
But old habits hang on like old barbed wire
His fence pliars still hang in their scabbard
To twist a wire, tap a staple, should she desire

Ghost calves bawl for want of their mamas
Bulls bellow for long gone cows on the lowland
She sees him on his black on the zig zag trail
Where he is sitting his saddle just grand!

Time’s trickery confuses her and she curses
At her old mind where his image lingers
Ghostly fog knuckles over the ridge
Crawls the canyons in cold, grey fingers

A harsh chill shudders her thin body
And sends gooseflesh down her spine
The familiar sounds and images
So cruelly tease her lonesome mind

For the first time she turns back on her trail
Finally…leaving her life as it were
For the very first time in fifty years
She leaves the gate stand open behind her

© Janice Gilbertson, used with permission

Janice Gilbertson is one of the women included in the new She Speaks to Me: Western women’s view of the west through poetry and songs, edited by Jill Charlotte Stanford, with photographs by Robin L. Green.

The book is an enticing collection of works by Amy Hale Auker, Sally Bates, Virginia Bennett, Niki Berg, Teresa Burleson, Doris Daley, Janice Gilbertson, Audrey Hankins, Joni Harms, Linda Hasselstrom, Jessica Hedges, Debra Coppinger Hill, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Stacy Jenne, Dee “Buckshot Dot” Strickland Johnson, Randi Johnson, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Echo Klaproth, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Renee Meador, Lyn Messersmith, Kathy Moss, Lauralee Northcott, Skye Mesa Ogilvie, Evelyn Roper, Sandy Seaton Sallee, Ann Sochat, Rhonda Stearns, Jody Strand, and Tina Willis. Western Horseman Senior Editor Jennifer Denison provides a foreword.

Janice Gilbertson comments, “What an honor it is to be included in Jill Stanford’s beautiful book of western women’s poetry. My western background is precious to me and being able to grasp the same fine thread as these brave, capable and talented women touches me deeply. Thanks to Jill for bringing us together.”

Find more about Janice Gilbertson, including her two novels, Summer of ’58 and The Canyon House at her web site, at, and on Facebook.

She Speaks to Me is available from booksellers and the publisher, Two Dot Press, a division of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for other uses, please request the poet’s permission.)