More from Billy the Kid

March 22, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

One of the things that I particularly enjoy in Ondaatje’s book is the way that the narrator’s body is always shifting–like the form in which the text itself is written, (it varies from poetry to prose-poetry to prose) the first person shifts between male protagonists. Then too, the body itself and the way it is depicted in this work is also always shifting. Hands assume the same object-ness as windows and bathtubs, sites of metaphorical/abstract (rather than personal) significance–the death of the horse in the following passage, for instance, becomes a location for failure not sentimentality. similarly, the site of Tom O’Folliard’s face signifies survival and resilience, becoming at once celebratory and painful. That’s why I found the poem on 49 so interesting–because suddenly there is a burst of sentimentality and right when Garrett has them arrested too, which is also interesting i.e. the relief of capture.


Snow outside. Wilson, Dave Rudabaugh and me. No windows, the door open so we could see. Four horses outside. Garrett aimed and shot to sever the horse reigns. He did that for 3 of them so they got away and 3 of us couldn’t escape. He tried for 5 minutes to get the reigns on the last horse but kept missing. So he shot the horse. We came out. No guns.


One morning woke up

Charlie was cooking

and we ate not talking

but sniffing wind

wind so fine

it was like drinking ether


we sat hands round knees

heads leaned back taking lover wind

is us sniffing and sniffing

getting high on the way

it crashed through our nostrils


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