Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Billy the Kid

Happy Birthday, Billy the Kid
(November 23, 1859 - July 14, 1881)

It'll be in the sixties, sunny, later today
near your Fort Sumner grave....
Tourists' salty tears will splat dry ground.
They've seen the movie.  Or all the movies.
There's always someone who believes
he bought one of your boots or a tooth.
So much of the past is crippled memory
blackened from bitterness or for profit.
Postcards a dollar, knock-off Billy sombrero
with a Chinese dog skin vest?  Ninety-nine bucks.
Oh, the turns of reckless, hungry youth,
girls and borders, pistolero nights... cantina songs:
we live with deaf ears for the smell of gunpowder.
All too often the law is a bent-back whorish lie.

This poem for Billy the Kid, and other bio-sketch poems, are included in Ghosts & Birthdays, a book of Red Shuttleworth poems published by Humanitas Media Publishing in 2012... available on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Barstow

In Barstow

The mother scrubs plates with a tea-brown sponge
as children sword fight with table legs.
The books on the shelves are arranged by color.
In the garage there's a work-scarred saddle
and stacks of string-tied Vogue and Elle magazines.
She toils nights serving cheeseburgers to tourists
living on spinach-green pills they wash
down with watery beer.  Lonely truckers sometimes
say her gold-plated anklet from El Paso is cute,
but Hud is never coming in his pink Cadillac.
Chris Isaak sings You Took My Heart
on the radio from outer space...
and her kids smash another set
of water glasses stolen from work.
The bitter marrow of a dead marriage
is on her tongue, but she has a mind
to buy that hemp mini-dress,
get some of that shank bone soup
education at the junior college.

*  This poem is included in a 2010 Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Drug Store Vaquero (Phoenix: The Basement).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Postcard to Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle
Palo Alto, California, 1978 or 1979

Postcard to Kay Boyle

Dear Kay,  The Revolution never arrived.
Tonight, far off, flames are singing
to a black sky, a Gaelic god's
shameless indifference.  The half-inspired
novelist-revolutionaries you fed
on Frederick Street are now sixty-something,
glum in Tenderloin hotels stacked with tales
no one will publish.  A few have chucked words
to craft strawberry-scented candles
on the Mendocino coast... and their meth-addled
children hate the patchouli stench of them.
I hope you have forgiven me for using
your letter of introduction to Beckett
to light a turf fire in Donegal.  Kate bakes
brownies as if our kids are still at home.
I spend nights walking toward a fire
maybe fifteen miles across high desert.
God love you, Kay.  Never slack-jawed,
never too weary to insist on marzipan
for every living soul, you were beautiful
as soft Irish rain.  Where you are,
I hope you have settled in with your beloveds,
Joyce, McAlmon, Beckett, and Ernest Walsh...
and that Hemingway is not
there to taunt you.  Love, Red

*  This poem is included in Red Shuttleworth's 2010 poetry chapbook, Drug Store Vaquero (Phoenix: The Basement).

Postcard to Jerry L. Crawford

Playwright Jerry L. Crawford

Postcard to Jerry L. Crawford

Dear Jerry,  We're at the radiant-blood precipice,
tumbleweeds snagged by barb wire.  Yesterday,
as daybreak floated across rock and sagebrush,
someone left a blood-dripping, gut-and-lung shot
coyote in a shopping cart in the Moses Lake
Wal-Mart parking lot.  The cart boy, Brent,
was dispatched to have a look.
It didn't fucking starve to death, he told his boss
before phoning me.  This is not, Jerry,
theatre for castratos of The New Yorker variety.
As I rolled up in my cherry-red Mustang,
chewing tobacco, listening to the Cowboy Junkies,
Brent was laying a couple of large black plastic bags
over the bullet-riddled carcass in the cart.
It caught me in its gaze, Brent whined,
like I was the pimplehead who shot it.
I told him to shut up.  A crowd was gathering.
Then the wind lifted the bags and they spun
off the cart and a clownish girl, with orange hair
and a black dog collar, began dancing.
A guy in the crowd snapped, For Christ's sake,
Nina, we came here for groceries and beer!
So Brent pushed the dead coyote cart
around to the back of the store, dumped the coyote
at the edge of the lake where we buried it
with brand new, soon-to-be-on-sale shovels.
It's a bit like baseball, Jerry:
where the head goes, the body follows.
We're almost over the wall, Red

*  This poem is contained in a 2010 Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, Drug Store Vaquero (Phoenix: The Basement).

Postcard to Julie Jensen

Playwright Julie Jensen

Postcard to Julie Jensen

Dear Miss Julie,  Gust of arctic wind and I shamble
into an all-night roadside cafe.  My casual seizures
of inappropriate rage or amusement are twenty years
north of Vegas and Red Rock.  In one booth
a couple of kinds are mutually glazed
with denim 'n leather seduction.  Up the aisle
there's a girl with frizzed blonde hair,
blue fingernails, and kippered face,
bred LDS-upright and tamped down,
wickedly perfumed, trembling over coffee...
a character from one of your plays?
The waitress jingles and scuffs toward me
with a dog-eared menu, grins like a rock chuck.
Unshaven for days and not a fraction rich,
I still listen to my lunatic heart.
My waitress has cigarette burns in her voice.
She's stoned, chewing gum.  I order
a night's sleep covered with a buffalo robe.
She serves me charred bacon and a gooey
fried egg, says, as if I've invited her to bed,
I don't trust guys in snap shirts and trophy buckles.
She's ice rain on warped corral boards.
Julie, you know the bump
of this country.  Love, Red

*  This poem is contained in a 2010 Red Shuttleworth chapbook, Drug Store Vaquero (Phoenix: The Basement).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Leopold Staff

Happy Birthday, Leopold Staff
(November 14, 1878 - May 31, 1957)

All that glitter-love, when times were best,
was best ignored... just the shit-soiled
pajamas of the Ubermensch. 

Silver cigarette case, wooden Franciscan crucifix,
half-starved children selling bathroom tile
lifted from bombed-out buildings.

An undulating purple dusk over Poland....
The cozy Marxist surfaces tarping brick rubble...
At least you sang on a chill evening.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Albert Camus

Happy Birthday, Albert Camus
(November 7, 1913 - January 4, 1960)

Tonight stars glitter on a two-lane blacktop,
a moment with no headlights... to remember your words.
Car window down, my eyes watering, this high desert
night blows a pack's worth of Gauloises smoke at me.
Yes, it is best to live for the new and the superficial,
their divisions and the cobwebs that marry them.
Yes... no truths, only objects for love:
that bottle of tequila, that girl with ice-silver eyes
this rattling squirrel-dead road, that betrayed heart.
Caligula returns and returns and Caligula returns.
Long forgotten: the pair of Corinthian temples,
cheek to jowl, for Violence and for Necessity.
The stars are pearl earrings.  The stars are
tiny onions. The stars are blood diamonds.
Yes, kicked doors, baffled priests,
lonesome hotels with freckled banana walls,
and executioners. Yes, extreme experience in solitude.