Monday, February 24, 2014

#118: Two Poems by Ace Boggess

~This poem first appeared in The Bryant Literary Review (2003).

“Prefer Slick, Feverish Grooves Over Funky Backbeats?”

                                                                                [seen in an advertisement]

blessed rock’n’roll R & B funk folk acid jazz
blessed Beatles carnival barkers calling the modern era
blessed Doors Who Grateful Dead immortal
noodling licks on vinyl persistent as the low note
in my college neighbor’s busy buzzing radiator
blessed Sam playing along
“there’s a B-flat in my headboard”
blessed Joshua Redman
saxophone a second tongue whispering sweetest words in bed
blessed Rusted Root rhythmic re-animators of jam-band jam
blessing the crowd with dance shake mystery vibe
blessed locals Jeff Roy Tyler Kat Mike Speedy John Shawn
Annie leaving to return
savor diverse notes catchy refrains
heavy metal blaring
moaning blues
frayed like an old man’s movement into night tonight
a Celtic quintet whistling bullets through
silk armor of a woman’s voice
blessed Shenanigans classic Irish sweetness
melancholia groove & bounce
blessed Van Morrison soulful tone suffering slings & arrows
blessed techno Moby reggae Marley
ska la la da da de da de
blessed Freddie Mercury coy erotic reaching
“March of the Black Queen”
blessed sultry Shirley Manson “happy when it rains” &
sad to be in song blessed blessed blessed
pipers in the summer heat
center stage at Calamity Cafe
vanished-bar nostalgia welcome as the word ‘welcome’
blessed release
in chords chorus tensing cadence
tribal as a movie about the white man’s dream
of Africa
blessed background score to my climax falling action
end blessed end that hasn’t found me yet
Sartre’s silence punctuates a symphony
defines as much as first chords
solos arpeggios harmony
blue notes blessed blue notes &
violence in the interlude anticipating quiet
for the blessed listener’s blessed blessed ear

Sunday, February 16, 2014

#117: "Calamity Jane's Grave" by Dale Rigby

~~This essay first appeared in Baobab: Columbia College Journal of the Arts (1995)

                                           Calamity Jane’s Grave
                                     What speaks when we stand silent before such a memorial?
                                     Is it a “monumental past”? A greatness, as lived, whose
                                     heroism…remains a living thing…? No, for it is not “the past”
                                     that we are being asked to recall, but rather something closer
                                     to the “historic”, with its need for reverence and obedience,
                                     for belief and remorse…--and thus, the ports of call for field
                                     trips, postcards, troubled reminiscence.
                                              --Scott L. Montgomery, “Monumental Kitsch: Borglum’s Mt. Rushmore”
                                                      (Georgia Review, Summer 1988)

I. Field Trips

Karen and I were both twenty, bookish middle-class townies, on our second still surreal day driving west from Ohio Berkeley bound. It was the summer of 1979 and our kerfuffled parents warned of Reverend Jim Jones and Commissioner Dan White (or that the Arab Oil Embargo would push gas past sixteen bits a gallon) but fairy tale plans to seek a life together far from family or friends had burned crisp and even around the campfire of the college where our parents taught.  And too. We probably just wanted to reinvent ourselves. Dance on some gravestones.   
The road beckoned with manufactured awe. Indian caves. Gimcracks and phosphorous dreams.  Even the gas stations were museums of that, memorials to this.  The wampum of the wide-open South Dakota plains. Should we stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota? “No,” we agreed, with the same hauteur we’d felt while smirking at parental offers of television sets. Going through the Badlands, we told ourselves that classes at Berkeley could wait; what we needed was to stray from I-90’s picket fence of tacky billboards. We figured Deadwood for an authentic frontier town--and authentic was our mantra--but what we found was closer to a Stuckey’s Restaurant definition of wild and wooly. Deadwood looked like a theme park from Disneyland.    
Then, round a chance corner, we saw an inconspicuous marker for the Mt. Moriah Cemetery. The bullet holes in the corrugated tin looked authentic! “It’s what Tom Robbins would do,” Karen pointed out, a copy of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues on her lap. So we turned up a hill with a grade well beyond Wallace Stegner’s angle of repose. The cotton-speckled blue sky looked so much like something out of Larry McMurtry’s Thalia that it hurt our eyes.  Then my foot fell to the floor with a thud that could be heard all the way back in Ohio. Like the gently sinking end of a bumper car ride, we found ourselves going ever so slowly backwards. My fey girlfriend said, “Arp, we are like Garp down his driveway in the dark!” Gravity roiled us trunk first to a gas station. Where a fella crusty enough to have been one of Calamity Jane’s 1903 pallbearers tested the fuel pump by trying to suck gas from it. “She’s gurn,” he said, dribbling out a mixture of spittle and petro. Turned out the closest Toyota parts were fifty miles away in Rapid City and it was 5 p.m. on a Friday. So we walked a silent mile down to the Greyhound Station and ordered a fuel pump with traveler’s checks earmarked for our security deposit in California.

Monday, February 10, 2014

#116: Three Poems by Jane Satterfield

~This poem was previously published in American Poetry Review (1996).


Docs like dad’s standard-issue dress shoes, combat
boots with zip-laces to accelerate the kill;

the leather jacket, the Joey Ramone.
Going to clubs in second-hand clothes,

bodies starved to sticks;
black liner, animal eyes, as if

to take back restless glances,
the desire to see and be seen…

In photographs from the ’50’s, the action painters’
wives are decked out, living dolls, the men self-important,

otherwise engaged.  To hell with the beauty of easy equations—
creeps, criminals, flasher among the stacks—I’m talking

the flip side, damage we did: closed hearts, open legs.
The first fight I had with a lover ended in fists,

the blood left there till it flaked.  Burning with boredom,
we wanted the ugly out in the open….

Destroyer, Great Mother, let me lay it on thick,
the shades I still own, blue-black as the bruise

left there, thick marks
like blood welling up.


Monday, February 3, 2014

#115: "Rara Avis" by Gary Krist

~This story was originally published in Gulf Coast (2004).

            When I was twelve years old and just getting over my unnatural fear of dogs, girls, and thunderstorms, I stumbled on my father's secret collection of Queen Elizabeth memorabilia.  It was stuffed in a cardboard box in the basement of our house in El Paso, on a shelf behind some crusty paint cans.  The collection consisted of several old, hand-colored pictures--one of the young queen-to-be in a white chiffon dress, another of a slightly older queen looking bored in front of a sweep of blood-red drapery--along with a varied assortment of royal souvenirs, including a coronation mug and a tiny silver spoon with a handle shaped like the monarch's head.  When I brought the box upstairs to ask my father about it, his face fell.  "So you found it," he said, embarrassed but not mortified, as if I had discovered his private stash of wholesome Victorian pornography.  He put his drink down, took the dusty box from my arms, and set it on the kitchen table.  Then he donned his thick, black-rimmed glasses and started rummaging through the items inside.  "Take a look at that, Leonard," he said, holding out a photograph of Elizabeth inspecting the horses at Astor.  "She's not a pretty woman, granted.  But what a bearing!"
            "Does Mom know?" I asked him, obscurely worried.
            He didn't even hear me.  He just kept staring at the photograph.  "As if nothing in the world could ruffle her," he said.
            A few months later, my father--Wyndham Hodding Stafford, the Canadian-born, Texas-raised owner of Stafford Printing Incorporated--was convicted in federal court on two counts of forgery and sentenced to five years in the federal pen.
            Five years.  It was the equivalent of a third of my life back then.  By the time my father was released, the divorce had already gone through and I was living with my mother in a red-brick garden apartment in Las Cruces.  I was a junior in high school, and had just won a prize for an English essay on what it was like to have an alcoholic felon for a parent.  "Honor Thy Father?" I had titled it, with a meaningful question mark at the end. 
            He got out of prison in April 1987.  For the next six or seven months, he honored my mother's request that we not hear from him except on holidays and birthdays.  But eventually we weakened and started letting him back into our lives.  And why not?  Prison seemed to have changed him, to have made him savvier and more in control of his life.  He'd stopped drinking, for one thing.  And he'd gotten a job with a respectable printing firm in El Paso.  "I've found myself," he told us during an Easter visit one year:  "I'm in the groove."  By the time I entered my sophomore year at New Mexico State, he'd put together enough money to start his own business again.  There was even talk of his moving back in with my mother.