In my mind, there’s only one comparison to Cowboy Blue Crawford: Roland of Gilead from The Dark Tower series. They both share a wayward quest shot full with grey morals and mythical characters. The difference: Blue’s journey is told with unflinching restraint through hard-boiled poetry and finesse. Each stanza demands multiple readings, not for clarity’s sake, but to relish from separate angles — like adjusting museum lights on a painting.

Except Clifford is still creating this masterpiece in real-time — a luxurious mural along a long blank wall. He has the vision and poetic prowess to finish strong. We get to watch, and by the end, I expect we’ll step back and appreciate the interwoven intricacies Clifford worked in since the beginning.

“Purgatory is the only oasis in the afterlife that makes any sense.” So Blue’s journey continues through the afterlife — and we with him.

-Zach Riggs

IG: @zachriggs

Tennessee’s Chief Craighead speaks underground with Cherokee who once met there. White men slaughter their prophets.  The veil thins between us and them.

In a cave, the Owl, an oracle tucked back deep, hears the dead plot their return. She holds them there, her magic powerful, their courage turned in any direction she bids. Her home is woven in iron, high in the slow, stone-made rafters. She swivels her broad head around and puts two golden eyes on the door.

Orpheus lost his lady attempting to escape a cave. Blue Crawford walks into his with questions, and intimate knowledge of the exits.

Lily waits in the car, poorly.

The Cherokee and Chief Craighead acknowledge the cowboy’s presence. Blue barely nods, and strides into the darkness without a light.

The Owl, an oracle

who destroyed

the whore of Delphi,

expects tonight

to guide the cowboy Blue Crawford.

The Owl consumes those

who can’t be caught.

Her truth is earned.

It cannot be bought.


A craggy palace among stalactites,

her nest is nestled in endless night.

Black roses grow around

its edge.

From a nearby ledge

Blue Crawford says,

“Oracle, this promise between us

is fucked!

The amulet you sent me to steal

doesn’t still my misery.”


Owl steps out and tsks

the cowboy’s complaint.

“The promise is good.

On earth everyone dies,

except you and your crew.”


The Old Faith always has the damn answers

that Rice tries to hide.

Blue hears the Cherokee

creeping up the cavern walls.


The Oracle says,

“We are from

the same sand, Blue.

Until Rapture

we are both

grave spirits.

Never think,

even on your soul’s mortal brink,

that the amulet

is heaven sent. It’s meant for a man

of destruction.”


“Tell me how to find Rice, you witch!”

Blues disrespect

is unwisely spent on the Owl.

She blinks and the Cherokee attack,

teeth-chattering cold,

fists bash against

Blue’s iron chest. Lashed by brutal attacks

from a tumultuous life.

Chief Craighead

hurls himself at Blue.


Blue’s shaman instincts

should’ve slid back in,

but they didn’t.

He couldn’t fight back.


This disability long-designed

by too many shot glasses

strewn between too few good days.

Guilt impeded his attack.

Blue Crawford cannot

fend for himself

when the soldiers are formed

by a deity.

The Owl crunches out,

claws around her stony perch.

Looking after- at- him

being beaten

she notes

no begging from his never-

pleading lips.


Vengeful spirits howl and hack

into Blue,

but he does not die.

The Cherokee and Blue,

they share jagged wounds

death won’t allow to heal.



Wings turn feathers to flesh,

and the Oracle, the Owl

stands half woman

half fowl. She, endowed with claws

and cruel truth.

A chin up to Chief Craighead,

he and his are led

away by her dismissal.


Fingers laced, gold eyes on Blue,

“Your demons seem stronger than you,

Blue. That won’t do.

Rice is planted in Alabama.

Montgomery, Alabama.”

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