Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Man Who Lost Himself Rolling Dice

"Untitled," a Ciara Shuttleworth Painting

The Man Who Lost Himself Rolling Dice

A tremor of expectation: this is how bison burger
is delivered on Thursdays to a cafe's back door.

On the road to Tuscarora, she lied, I prefer
pleasure and sentiment to charming jewelry.

I hoped that she would say, You're a wonderful
lover-in-residence, but her car battery was dead.

And a few miles to the east in basalt country,
pioneer graves have rattlers that lazily rise at sunset.

If you really loved me, she sometimes drawls,
you'd be sick of yourself by the bucketsful.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Red Shuttleworth's "Roadside Attractions" wins a 2011 Spur Award for Best Poetry

Western Writers of America recently announced that Roadside Attractions (Phoenix: The Basement), a one-poem chapbook, by Red Shuttleworth, is the recipient of the 2011 Spur Award for Poetry.

Red Shuttleworth's Western Settings (Reno: University of Nevada Press) received the first ever Spur Award for Poetry in 2001.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So... Are You Going to the Dance?

                                                    "Becky," a Ciara Shuttleworth painting

So... Are You Going to the Dance?

The Christmas barn
invites no second coming.
The polar-loud wind
bawls like a calf
dead since great grandpa's
blizzard of 1888.
The scarlet barn
in moonlight:
death on a coin flip.

In the population-300 town,
the postmaster,
a baseball would-be-gloveslick
three wars ago,
sits beside his brother's
hospital bed,
hellish brain clot,
puzzled by a floral-blue
uplift bra atop
a blink-'n'-bleep machine.

When it rains,
the small school
stinks of bacon,
powdered eggs.

A scrawny girl,
in a sweat suit
and cowgirl boots,
hangs prom banners,
dreams of becoming
an unsentimental
screech owl.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bad Sleep and Attic Trunk Photo's

TV Generation, a Ciara Shuttleworth painting

Bad Sleep and Attic Trunk Photo's

Dried blood inside a 19th century
girl's locket in an old cowboy movie:
gravity's a cold-hearted carnivore.
Straw bales are stacked against
the wellhouse and it's 29-degrees.
Baby jostles around in bed,
so you tell her to stop fidgeting.
All day it was a mud-spattered
windshield and trips to the vet.
Sometimes life is simply
kicking through thistles.

     * * *

Necklace, owl, moonlight:
sometimes memory comes
at you like crazed automatic
paper towel dispenser:
the girl who intro'd herself
hadn't cut her hair
in a year and it was half
natural ash-blond
and half the henna-red
she dyed it when she felt
You felt dumb at five a.m.
at the motel's front desk
as she tried to talk the clerk
into unlocking the tall gate
to the outdoor pool.
It was raining outside
and all she had on
was a long plaid shirt.
Before your team
caught the bus,
you left a twenty dollar bill
tied with a pink ribbon
on top of her suitcase.

     * * *

Sure, it's black & white,
but would you look
at the icy sweat
dripping off
Billy the Kid's
gun hand.

     * * *

Mice in the recliner,
the mortgage two-months behind,
she sells her man's Ruger .44.
The chestnut blouse barely fits
and the clingy red dress
has loose neckline threads.
She drops two rough slices
of soda bread into the iron skillet.
fries them in last night's burger grease.
Two cups of black coffee
and she sits in the no-floorboard,
1974 Ford Pinto Wagon,
cheers as a rain-soaked coyote
yelps across a crumbling road
fourteen miles from any town.

     * * *

Imagining there's coin for those of wit,
in Jackpot, Nevada, in the bar at Cactus Pete's
to shelter from a hellacious thunderstorm,
you give it your best smile as a platinum blonde,
once nourished on road kill deer, brags,
I was named after the Truckee River.
Truckee.  I was much younger then.

     * * *

Four double-shots of Wild Turkey
and plain regally corked,
you close your eyes and thank luck
that you don't have to drive drunk
to stick to a job at the air bag plant
or the chicken nugget factory.
The TV is on okay,
though once an hour,
the satellite dish
needs to have snow
brushed away.
It's a late night movie:
fields of spring corn,
a woman named Ruby,
a police chief slapping his wife,
Ruby saying something
about the small of marijuana
being in her hair
and she has to fly to a funeral.
Baby fidgets, says commercials
are half of what
you're describing to her.
Sometimes you're a rented car
dropped off at the wrong airport.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

When Yesterday Was My Name: Four Short Poems

When Yesterday Was My Name: Four Short Poems

The credit union clerk drops
a sliced lamb sandwich on the floor.
Perhaps he remembers an abandoned church,
littered and crusty, wool blankets
rank with tobacco and stale sweat
on an iron-frame bed.
For the red-breathed clerk,
there have been no small number
of I-Love-You miscalculations.
Outside it is raining long needles,
Inside it is fever and insomnia,
hair clumps falling onto 
a greasy pillow.
Blood pounds in his skull
as if someone is hammering apart
cheesy divorce furniture.


The moon's brightness awakens you.
Where the trail bends past lunar farms,
tractors line up for auction.
Clouds are for drinking with whiskey.
Eternal comets thrash the night.
Misguided blue eye shadow:
the small town bride's sister,
in an incandescent-champagne dress,
legs in leather and steel braces,
tries to dance... fueled by spiked punch
Old fashioned singing and Walmart
Chinese trunks against a wall:
how skin-warm is memory?


Mounted deer and coyotes gather dust
in the old hotel's basement.
The trick, a local realtor says,
is to move alone, because pain
and pleasure are like strangers
meeting in a rundown bar.
The hotel's bedding was home-dyed,
pewter-blue, and the windows
once owned a rosy tint.
The realtor is sporting
turquoise suede boots,
says she's getting used to
ranchero music
and drunk neighbors
firing off shotguns
every midnight.


Ruddy children razor open
string-bundled Life magazines.
In the next room, their mother
sleeps off a week on meth.
The ballpoint pen factory
is boarded up tight.
Behind the burned-out
filling station,
pages of pin-up calendar
models dance.
Blood-washed teeth,
a diabetic's saggy
neck skin:
sorry tractors
squat behind
an old hotel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prairie Waltz

Prairie Waltz

The ghosts of men in wild skins clap
skunk hide gloves against a north wind.
My wide-brim, high crown hat is blizzard-blown.

One neighbor used telephone books
for insulation when he built a new house.
He curses the hunger of nimble wall-mice.

Nostalgia is the warmest place in the county,
outlaw coffins, bleating drunks at Lee & Rosie's
long incapable of pleasing moon-drunk girls.

Then there was the icy night
a semi hauling 50,000 pounds of mayo
slammed into a rig carrying frozen peas,

Tonight, with the kids faking sleep,
I'm hooked on Kate's narrowed blue eyes,
singing on the fringe of joy.

The Sweet Weight of Anticipation

The Sweet Weight of Anticipation

Sagebrush glimmers as a frazzled girl struts past,
buttonless blouse taped to persistent breasts.

A cobalt-blue horse leans his head over
a barb wire fence in luminous silence.

The high school quarterback, weekend off from the feedlot,
exults, I've got a rockin' hard-on for America!

The boys without dates pass around rot-gut whiskey
and a pellet gun until one kid is shot in the hand.

And the quarterback's queen nods as he beer-gibbers.
She is sleek, a comet-bodied volleyball beauty... patient.

She uses chess pieces for .22 target practice,
loves autumnal bedspreads flung to the floor.

Locating Triumphant Moments in a Blizzard

Locating Triumphant Moments in a Blizzard

Tough love from the TV:
gunfighter skeletons splash
spooky Christmas-greens
and reds across
my Lexington, Nebraska
motel room.
The take-out
blueberry pie
tastes as good
as a rock groupie's lips.
The freeway is drifted shut.

I'd temporarily,
only in-this-moment,
be in cowshit
to the belt buckle.
Back home,
the neighbor's kid
stole a True West
T-shirt out of
my mailbox.
In the Jacuzzi
suite next door
two women
are punching
each other,

I love
this sacred country,
our scorch-'n'-run rituals,
pole dancers
who brag
on 4-H steers
they once

True West magazine has been kind to my poems and to me over the years.  A kid actually did swipe a T-shirt some years back.  He's grown up now and, I hear, doing time in Walla Walla for stealing larger stuff.  As for Lexington, Nebraska, it's a great place to burrow into a motel during a blizzard.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creosote Bushes... Desert Holly

Creosote Bushes... Desert Holly

months pass
in a haze.

It feels like
desert shack

A woman is on a gold overstuffed chair,
knees drawn up to small breasts,
a brief blue cotton dress
at her narrow hips,
no panties,
long ebony hair
tangled wild.

The cement
has a brittle
of Linoleum.

is not

There are mortal facts
in the bloodstream,
which is
no excuse.
Money grins.
Pink ribbons
travel far.

It is raining
an empty

There will
flash floods,
snapped off

Out on the highway,
truck air horns
with one another
like bible camp

Now the man is alone
and the woman
is in a $69

is an owl
at twilight...
light pole

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pint of Dickel: Four Short Poems

Red Shuttleworth

Pint of Dickel: Four Short Poems

Just tossed oncoming caution into the burning barrel
like a move house private joke.  At sixty-six,
the Lone Ranger wears silver-frame glasses.
An attic crawl-in closet: bullet boxes filled with pennies,
crusty old plastic milk replacer bottles,
sheathed corn knife, and a filthy saddle blanket.


Decades of knuckle-tattoo waitresses,
headlights shooting wicked at the eyes,
feeling okay with the prospect of heaven
if they gift mule-eared Nocona knee-high boots,
if my room has a hot tub with Bardot soaking,
if the singing is booze-merry with no fade-outs.
Decades of empty refrigerators in roadside ditches.


The blonde in the Best Western lobby was polished
in a metallic way, squeezed into a little red
blouse and blue leather short-short skirt.
She had an electric toothbrush buzzing
against beautifully capped front teeth.
No one said a word when she spit
greenish-blue toothpaste juice
on the fake marble floor.
Something in her room
needed to be swapped
and management
had pissed its hands.


Dry rippling high grass in Nebraska,
lipstick kisses on a Vegas shower curtain,
broke-down dollar machine at a casino....
Limestone stars, Iowa bible colleges,
roadside wood crosses with plastic flowers:
the last time I flew, a sleek Delta stewardess,
scented vanilla-jasmine, laughed...
like we were going to score in Salt Lake.
She let me have bourbon at a dollar off
since I was bone-dry and out of ones.
Sixty-six, I hate rear view mirrors.

Bitter Orange: Four Short Poems

Bitter Orange: Four Short Poems

Potholes on Swagger Road:
a dream of living with apple-red & ivory statues,
in an abandoned feed store, broke & painting moist blue eyes...
the roar of a low flying jet like silverware over the coulees.
I can never see myself as I really am, she says,
points to an elm tree that voluteered-up
a dozen spidery years ago.


One day she wraps foil around herself.
Another day she crinkles in a lime-green
sweater dress made from old ropes:
there is so little time to caress...
to believe in picture albums.
Peasant blouse, no bra...
denim skirt rolled high.
Busted-up goodbyes.
She's turning forty.


Bus ticket to a clapboard house
& dead battery flashlights.
She asks to have her nipples pinched
as the windows bang in a south wind.
He laughs, distracts himself from her tears...
foxed by the beauty of her brushing
long hair the color of raw steak.


It's a backseat, drink 'n' drive town.
Teeth snap: Too much cheap perfume, baby.
She throws him down with a drawn-out casino fantasy,
her legs bare, jeans tossed atop a fresh raspberry pie.
Keepsake quilt, a jar of quarters, days and days
clearing hundreds of clogged irrigation pipes.
She touches him with her tongue,
says, I was expecting someone else this year.
The horizon sun disorders itself in their slow motion.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Clothesline Fire

Clothesline Fire

Typhoidal saint
desert rat

& you play
make a sculpture

with nut-wheat

... imaginary Vegas

Now that's what I call a buxom cathedral

     * * *

Or Wyatt Earp's
cancerous prostate 1928

Chemigated motel pool water

& backyard breasts
baby oiled slick

     * * *

Heck, no, you take the overstuffed chair, please

Discolored deer hide bed
Frantic for love
Woodsy nymph
Leathery afternoon

     * * *


     * * *

My Americana whiskey-stained voice

Ceaseless winter
& snow-tossed icons

Rodent bones
wedding rings

sings mere blink of Mary Todd Lincoln biting a madhouse chair

     * * *

beehive hair styles

(forlorn ranch)


     * * *

No one found
Paul Gaugin
in MacKenzie
that winter

Barry said

It had been
a fine season
for bar brawls

at center


     * * *

the Prince

whiskey bottles

Please don't spray paint the bus windows black, asshole

     * * *

candlelight unspools

& puking
on street corners

     * * *

This is a painting  you'll want

Which is
the nature
of self-damage

Room service condoms
Emo slumber party
Butterly flapjacks
Gnarled emergency room nurse

& I
bang my head
off doors
other heads

     * * *

the trailer

Jesus all
about 5'2"
& framed

Emo slumber

I always remember cruelty

     * * *

Prince George BC
& pizza
delivery girl

fire ant eye


When you're at this stage

So a five

no smile

     * * *

deep deep deep deep

No Jack London
No Robert Frost

to not

as the leg trap

No Corn Chex Today

No Corn Chex Today

She unsnaps her chambray shirt,
drapes it on the dead treadmill.
The window box AC grinds.
Strawberries,she grins,
with gobs of chocolate syrup.
The horses in the pipe corral
are brushed and watered.
There's no lawn to cut tight.
She dances hip-motion circles,
sings, Rilke, Rilke, Rilke,
like a delirious, toothy bird.
She likes to paint from Polaroids.

You Can't Find Your Heart?

You Can't Find Your Heart?

Shadows fall.  Raggedy children
use coffee can lids to dig
for honey-colored pebbles.
The village waitress passes by,
hardly notices them,
carries fried eggs
to a hairy-eared man in a rest home.

The local preacher tries on a satin gown
as his wife knits a toilet seat cover.
They are on a diet and soggy corn flakes
catch light from the first fever-sun of summer.

Driving home into a dusty wind
from the coulees north of town,
the bartender strays from his usual route,
parks his rig in front of the warped house
he was born in, swallows the last of his beer.
The strangers inside are from another land.
They smile as their door is kicked in,
speak to the bartender as if they
are all friends, speak of the day-to-day
muddle at their drive-through sandwich shop.

Someone has wrapped barb wire
around the county courthouse statue of justice,
sprayed her breasts flame-orange.
The restroom key at the Shell filling station
has been missing for at least two days
and the owner grinds his teeth,
believes he hears clunking from that territory,
fears a squatter has taken up residence.

The preacher's chunky wife sets aside
her knitting, drives north into the coulees.
She loosens long gray hair, takes scissors to it.
The Thomson Hotel has been dead for years,
but she checks in, climbs to an empty third floor
room with peeling gold paint and a cracked window.

In the school gym, a gimped mutt frolics
down court through droopy crepe streamers.
The spotlight aimed at the water tower
has been shot dead by a local shaved head.
Just south of town three glassy-eyed Emo kids
have scored a white goat, but what comes next?

Black cattle on a section of sparse grass,
long gone cavalary bugles at a sad tune,
a preacher's wife alone in a dead hotel room
with day-old chicken nuggets in a paper cup:
Oh, a bucketful of bright days is coming for sure.

Saturday, March 19, 2011



Haze... fire in the Cascades.
The air is filled with sad cow songs.
Baby walks from the shower,
moist, like pineapple cake.
This is the nomadic margin.
It's a rattler under the porch August,
parched ground, coyote teeth for luck,
an empty-of-horses corral.

The neighbor's girl can't stop
eating dead flies off windowsills.
Her wrists are healed from dull slits.

I have not finished making my own failures.
I stare dog-like at icy stars.
Someone always catches the midnight flight.
I've learned the staying... domestic growl and grin,
to run alongside winter wheat fields,
miles from blacktop, to stop, shuffle,
jab, and spar the wind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Angry Moon

Angry Moon

Hard-crash intimacy,
jagged booze bottle glass,
blood-crusted eyebrow.
Nothin's busted, she says,
you ain't alredy broke.
Later she crabs up
a river bank...
otter lovely,
pauses, so you
get better angle
in silvery light.

Here You Are

Here You Are

Half-shingled roof, raggedy-quilt, fire-hazard cheap
motel: shadows of amber light through thin curtains.

A guy comes up to me in a Glenwood Springs bar
in a Doc Holliday frock coat,
whispers, Your creator misses you.
He's bearing The Book of Mormon.

Feeling like a kid, I keep memory
of all the places
where it's rained on my hunger.

There was that lousy Craig, Colorado,
hotel with punched-out hallway video cameras.

And, oh boy, second hand charity ball gowns
on blunder-pregnant, fleshed-out girls
in Nevada City, their boys in fake Stetsons.

A pole dancer in North Platte says she believes
in rebound love, misunderstood schoolyard tenderness.

A hand-trembling stranger in an Elko bar leans on his walker,
On the right horse, it can take all night to cross a field.

Ontario, Lime, Baker City: a waitress brags she can be
anything on the menu, from chicken fried steak
to a chocolate milk shake dripping real slow... all over me.

A guy with a Will Smile For Food sign in Moses Lake
takes five bucks from me, asks if I notice America's decline,
chuckles, admits, My last girlfriend caught fleas.

I bring little darlin' a spray of red roses.  An hour later
we sit silent, eat cubed pears over cheeseburgers,
listen to a southwest wind rattle our front windows.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Highway 54: Stratford, Texas

Highway 54: Stratford, Texas

The motel maid's kid left pink
and blue marbles in the shower stall.
The room is sour with the sweat
of the last guest, a runaway priest.

Across the road there's whiskey,
baskets of fried vegetables,
a stove-belly bartender
with glazed eyes and a leather vest.

A half awake dancer sways,
keeps a loose grip on a brass pole.
She's body-painted gold, smiles,
lifts a big fake breast, shimmy-pivots.

Later, at a roadside pancake house,
over strawberry shortcake, she smiles,
strokes her glass of iced tea.
A waitress calls her Freckles.

The water from your shower is rusty.
You shut your eyes, see yesterday's
twisted cars, flares on blacktop.
There's a still life of apples above your bed.

Freckles puts on her lemon-colored dress,
jots her number on a Gideon Bible,
says, You should feel as happy as Jesus,
like on his 21st fucking birthday.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dog Heart's Desperado Lament

Dog Heart's Desperado Lament

The snake-buzz of desert tells you
how tough it is to go on without
the vanilla scent of her skin.
You're in buzzard solitude.

You're not thinking high school
pink carnations or milk mustache.
You wake to radio music somewhere
near Barstow that year she danced tassels.

Hazy luck: skinny cows on scorched ground,
boarded up small town stores,
Wal-Marts jammed with fat women
in stretched-tight sweat pants.

You jam roping gloves into the back
pocket of faded knee-hole Wranglers.
Back and shoulder pain is the least
crease on your whiskey-damp soul.

You settle for slight pause for starlight.

With a Thunderstorm Coming On

With a Thunderstorm Coming On

In a by-the-week motel room.
she places a gold-with-crimson stripes
marble egg on a mini fridge.
It reminds her of all the music
that's carried her cowgirl heart
this far into Nebraska: Ogallala.

She's a chump change blonde at a cafe
where she gap-tooth smiles for slim tips.
She's a diamond to momma in Cheyenne.
She has no idea where daddy is.
She loves a boy who married for too little.

This late afternoon her little black dress
is tossed out a window to the first rain...
to prove some unspoken truth
from a McGuane novel she is reading
to her lover, both of them beguiled,
within thin age-warped walls,
by each other's High Plains longing.

Sixty-Six Miles From a Freeway

Sixty-Six Miles From a Freeway

At the county fairgrounds a dog barks at men
taking down junk stalls and the ferris wheel.

An August midnight full moon and an angel purrs,
wraps golden legs around her drought-town's quarterback.

The preacher leans back in his auction-bought barber's chair,
reads Ezra 7, waits for the deep kiss of sleeping pills.

The coroner makes a cup of sugary coffee,
plays with a matchbook covers collection left by the dead.

The banker phones a farmer, I'm prone to extend your loan,
but I've had to boil my own grandmother's head for sustenance.

Nebraska wind blows scraps on paper sacks, empty cans,
sheets of newspapers: the town wrinkles up for a door rattling night.

At the county fairgrounds, the work near-done, a man brags,
Once had a woman who'd give you a headboard concussion.

Lash of hard days: maybe you remember tall grass, your grandfather's
buckskin jacket, his wild herd of imported-from-Texas Longhorns.

Green Dawn and Clear Sky

Green Dawn and Clear Sky

From the hunch-inward of sleep,
where a horse on the Kansas line
crow hops on furrowed ground,
I remember, you, baby,
muscle and sinew,
tight jeans, ripped shirt,
one breast bare,
brow sweaty, laughing,
Go ahead... have the last word.

Arid Great Plains years: your blush
and my ache.  Hay and whiskey-scented towns.
Sketchy motels and shady bars.
One man, Copenhagen-bulged lower lip,
buys crimson barn paint, gets to work.
One woman laughs, dresses her children
in attic fashion out of dusty trunks.

I remember us, baby, restless.
Loose-jawed dogs in farmyards,
panting, children nearby
with toy pistols, battered lunch boxes.
Wind gusts from the Dakotas.
A drive into town.  Children
cascading down the slope
of a broken pioneer graveyard.

Green dawn and clear sky,
my recklessly used, disjointed
body rolls and rises, takes heart
under scalding shower water.
The melancholy language of dreams
is hunger from the dredged up.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Electric Current

Electric Current

Small wild roses on marked cards:
the horizon is red dust sunlight falling on cattle.

A hard jade girl sings,
Mangy dog, you're mine,
steps into a yellow summer dress.

The barber shop has been closed
as long as the grocery store.

You are discussing mistakes
located in the Bible,
staring out an airplane window
at the snowy Wasatch Range.

Earlier there was a museum
to wander through: golden deer bones
sheathed in condoms, tied with red ribbons.

The new rodeo queen uses three kinds
of dandruff shampoo to keep on top of flaking.
She calls herself a sweet apple pie with a bruised spot.

Much, much earlier than all of this,
having fortified himself with Jack Daniels,
the school's vice principal taped up
hallway signs: Stamp Out Suicide.

Behind the abandoned grocery store,
past the need-repair train tracks,
beyond the crumbling statue
of a pioneer horseman....

A horizon of marked cards
settles dark as a Wild West memory.
You are flying, white knuckle flying.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Mexico Town

New Mexico Town

You're trying to sell
a few tons of Nebraska
alfalfa square bales
stolen by primal light
of summer stars.
Only half the town,
the tourist half,
is colored oatmeal-adobe.
The jail is half a dozen
telephone poles
past a scrambled eggs joint.
Your waitress is two decades
of snapping dogs, black eyes,
getting called a dirty shame.
She's in a red-gone-pink,
low-cut cotton dress...
cracked name tag: Dusty.
You ask about pie,
lose your way
through her list,
so she helps you out,
It's late, so take
a wedge of dumb-ass
a la mode.
Now you know
you're going to
get along just fine.