Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ghost of Richard Nixon

The Ghost of Richard Nixon

The waiter ushers Dick over to my table.
He appears to recognize me, Have you seen
my goddamned dogs, Checkers or Timahoe?
He's in a cheap suit and soup-stained tie.
I was walking them and they vaporized.
People are always trying to steal Checkers...
and Timahoe, well, only Henry Kissinger
wants him... for serious training.

Dick sits at my table, orders six gin and tonics,
What a time we'll have, just a rock 'em - sock 'em time,
once I get my sixer of smart juice.  Timahoe...
I love that red-coated garden pisser.
We used to get low and chew on the Oval Office rug.
One day I caught the bastard fucking with it....
and for a moment I was ready to napalm his ass.
And Kissinger says, "Mr. President,
if you don't reward him with dog biscuits,
then there won't be any carpet crumbs."

Dick lurches from his chair, dives to all-fours,
looks up at me, places a napkin on the floor,
and grips it with his teeth... shakes it.
Dick still has wiry dark hairs
growing from the top of his nose.

The waiter asks, Wouldn't a chair be more comfortable?
Dick scowls at the waiter, Fuck you.  I 'm president...
for eternity.  If I want to gnaw rugs and carpets
for dog biscuit crumbs, that's what I'll fucking do.
What are you, a species of football-hating liberal?
I'll have the IRS audit you, you anal pin worm.

My porterhouse steak is getting cold, so I cut into it.
The waiter disappears.  Dick shakes the napkin with his teeth,
Goddamn, but Timahoe and I had good times
in the White House.  Once we saw the image of Jesus
in a bowl of Timahoe's canned dog food.
Another time we both pissed on a painting of FDR.
And when Elvis came and I made him a special agent
against drugs, I let him take Timahoe for a trot.

Abruptly, Dick sits back down in his chair,
You gotta help me find Checkers and Timahoe.
We were on a walk, talking to America.
It's vital that I remain within the heart
of this great nation's soul.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Huron Ted Walters (1938)

Huron Ted Walters  (1938)

I never said I was some trigger-quick,
matchless Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, or Dillinger.
You got to go a caliber extra in the crime shindig
to be Clyde Barrow or Miss Bonnie Parker,
but I pitched pennies with them.  I have a talent
for stealing hens and eggs, for driving Cadillacs,
and once rode steers at rodeos
as far north as Burwell, Nebraska.
I'm a common, decent Texas boy, though my looks
are swank enough for Hollywood, wild sure,
but until I met Clyde, my most daring adventure
was running around on Halloween, tipping outhouses.
I'm in the Dallas jail thanks to Mr. Hoover making me
Public Enemy Number One, your essential R.C. Cola thief.

This poem is included in a Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Brief Lives.

John Wilkes Booth (1938)

John Wilkes Booth  (1938)

Between Post and Clairemont, there are,
for one peculiar mile, as many fence posts
as there are skinned wolves dangling off them,
over two-hundred nearly indentical grimaces.
I am no more Lincoln's assassin than you, friend,
but you have paid twenty-five cents to leer
at my arsenic-embalmed black flesh, to peek
up my khaki shorts, to ruffle my white hair.
I am John St. Helen from Enid, Oklahoma,
a lovesick suicide stuffed with straw.
My left leg is shorter, thus I am Booth?
I swallowed a B-engraved pendant for jealousy's
blue flame, so I am Booth?  But shake my hand,
place my palm upon your true love's breast.

This poem is from a Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Brief Lives.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Henry Starr (1921)

Henry Starr  (1921)

He is riding in a car to Harrison, Arkansas,
to hold up a bank.  It's not that far from Tulsa...
if you're modern enough to quit horses.
He is forty-seven, four decades past holding
the reins of Cole Younger's gelding at Aunt Belle's.
The last time in prison cost him his wife,
his son, Teddy, named for Roosevelt.
Starr squints at his driver, Normal life
is the despair of cautious self-regard.
The carbuncle-faced driver blinks and Starr laughs.
We won't get rich, the old outlaw says,
and we might not see home ever again.
Starr laughs, tilts his Stetson's brim over his eyes,
the joyous last link to the James-Younger boys.

This poem is included in a Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Brief Lives.

Jack London (1910)

Jack London  (1910)

Wind cuts through the manzanitas
like a last breath.  London never knew
his father.  He feeds tag-alongs
at his redwood table in Glen Ellen,
employs dozens to build and sail
the flawed Snark.  Then the stone house
burns like folding money.  He cuts a slice
from a chunk of plug tobacco, offers it
to Charian.  A writer is just a fellow
going bare knuckles against the ghost of God.
London needs booze or a woman's legs twined
around him to get a night's warm sleep.
I invented debt.  He cannot choose
between Marx and Darwin: the wolf is alone.

This poem is included in a Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Brief Lives.

Georgia O'Keefe (1913)

Georgia O'Keefe  (1913)

Just above the too-hot weight of low Texas sky,
there are bone-white bones, a steer skull
with a kindly smile.  Her Amarillo students
ask, Why do you dress like a man?
Alone, outside her rooms-by-the-week hotel,
she fights the impulse to dance the rhythm
of the wind.  A trainload of cattle jerks
and groans eastward.  Why do I like to kiss
the boys, tongue and hard, but decline turnabout?
And if the smoke from a lone cowboy's
campfire in Duro Canyon is golden-blackness,
heaven is a flower flattened between
textbook pages.  Loneliness is so lovely,
black vultures across Texas flat ground.

The poem is from Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012). Ghosts & Birthdays, available on Amazon, presents bio-sketch poems on Julius Caesar,  Wyatt Earp, Gertrude Stein, Marilyn Monroe, Norman Mailer, Sonny Liston, Kay Boyle, Hunter S. Thompson, and many others.

Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays
is available on Amazon

Will Rogers (1935)

Will Rogers  (1935)

Think of bullhide boots left in the rain.
Or a lonely valley.  Will Rogers loved speed.
Nothing quite matched riding Soapsuds
off a moving flatcar, getting it perfect
on a first take.  There were other horses:
Dopey, Black Iron, and Seven Squash.
Think of a single engine plane failing
to gain altitude over an Alaskan lake.
The abyss smells like burning rope.
Rogers made us laugh with the truth.
Think of an Eskimo boy running for help,
his shadow lit by aviation fuel flames
until there is no shadow, only the crackle
of a lariat snaring the northern sun.

This poem is extracted from a Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Brief Lives.