Saturday, June 14, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 7 - Last Call

Last Call, David Lee
Wings Press
$16, 134 pgs

I have a new Poetrypalooza favorite and a new aspiration in life - for someone to love me this much. Last Call by David Lee is a celebration of, and ode to, his friend the late William Kloefkorn, Poet Laureate of Nebraska. These poems chronicle the lives of a rural West Texas community and the many ways in which the characters of this small town are braided together. Especially one Billy Klogphorne and one Clovis Ledbitter, whom I suspect I ran across many years ago at the now-defunct Cattleman's Restaurant outside Colorado City, Texas. I know these people, I know this place.

Watching the recurring characters develop is a joy. There are many monologues that had me truly laughing out loud. For example, this is the title of one of the poems: "Substitute Teacher or The morning Billy Klogphorne taught the adolescent male Sunday School class lesson on the designated Christian Leader Preparation outline topic of Genesis 5:18, 19 and 23, 24, proving Lamech and polygamy were of the lineage of Cain and therefore accursed of God and Why he was never invited back to teach Sunday School again." Yep. Lee has an astonishing gift for colloquial speech that borders on a sort of onomatopoeia, if that makes any sense. I suspect those of you who know his work will understand what I'm trying to say. There is a prodigious and kindly intelligence at work and play here. I cannot recommend this volume highly enough.

My favorite:

The Traildust Gospel

                               -Juan Bautista, who, folk legend tells us,
                                lost his mind over a woman's footprints
                                in the dust somewhere east of Pecos


Onella Penny smoked a pipe
P.A. tobacco you could smell
two yards over
nobody every mentioned
outside our neighborhood
but what finally made her famous
after the big stomp
was when we noticed
how she walked so hard
for a woman who wasn't
to speak of necessarily

in a dry season
her steps wove dust
cyclone children on the way
to the trash barrel or clothes line
past her ankles, swirls
almost to her knees
so that

one August morning
Billy Klogphorne and Clovis Ledbitter
perched on the back porch furniture
morning coffeeing in short sleeved shirts
saw her emerge like Venus
in an ocean of heat waves
with a kitchen trash

footstep whirlwinds
all around her back yard, in immaculate Texanese
Clovis said One them air dust devils
gets under her housecoat
up her nightgown arising
she'll lift herself
like a full grown female angel
right off the ground
I bet

looked smartly their way
so Billy couldn't laugh or take the wager
leaned over and pretended
something in his coffeecup
needed to be looked at
anything else right then
was not going to be worth the chance


Then the day Marvin Penny
came outside
looking like second place
in a two entrant
world champion fist whipping
she became

neither one surprised
after they heard the scream
through the housewalls across the yard
to the back porch PBR libations
when she learned the rumor
of his gallavantation with Kim Pierce
Billy in perfect Tejano splendor said

that isn't no knuckebumps on his head
you get up and look close
I'll put two dollars
yougn see a clear footprint
from his busted lip
up between and past
that eye'll be swolt black tomorrow
with a bloody nose in the middle
Clovis said No bet
that looks to be a fact


When Cephas Bilberry heard
at the Dew Drop Inn that night
he said Well I hope Marvin he learnt
a lesson from it either way
whatever it was needing
such immediate education
Billy said I imagine he did
Cephas said That being what?
Billy said Next time
he gets knocked on his ass
he'll make sure he falls down
so the following foot marks
don't show

said You mean
whoever did that stomp
it was after he'd already been knocked down?
Clovis said
Unless she can walk around in the air
stomping on heads, you know
a better way?

Billy said
If it's a point
needs to be made
or a trailway to be commended
it might as well be stated proper
so the muckling effort
doesn't need to be repeated

said Well that might be right
Clovis said Yep
ever footstep in this drought
raises a genuine cyclome or leaves a print
sometimes permanent
and that's not blowing smoke
or preacher talk
and Cephas said Godamitey's mama
aint it the truth?


Juan Diego Mendietta
unloading a case of Pabst's Blue Ribbon beer
into the ice cooler at the Dew Drop Inn
heard a voice
saying A woman who walked in air
left a footprint on the face
of Marvin Penny
that could be seen clearly
with one's own eyes

that night
he told Father Gutierrez
the things he heard but the Padre
shook his head sadly and said No my son
these are the words of a fool
drunk on bootleg beer
you must try to remember
milagros almost never occur in Tejas
where there are too many gringos
for the Lord's work

Juan Diego Mendietta
went home in despair
his hope of imparting a miracle's appearance
shattered like his youthful dreams
of making love to Hooter Hagins
but he told his wife Eva who some said
was de la familia de las brujas
while he ate the tacos she made for him
what he heard spoken clearly
who told

her sister Maria Calvones
who told her cousin Isabel Ramones
who cleaned Onella Penny's house
every Monday from nine en la manana
until la hora de cuatro in the afternoon
who went to the Penny casa
the next morning even though it was a Thursday
and knocked

when he
opened his door he said
You aint posta be here today yet
it aint Monday is it?
she screamed and pressed her hands to her cheeks
the inbdelible print of a foot
clearly visible on Marvin Penny's face
¡Madre de dios! she screamed
he said What the hell?
but Isabel Ramones turned and ran
down the calle shouting
¡Es un Milagro! ¡Un Milagro!

votary candles appeared nightly on the porch
of Onella and Marvin Penny's home
which he removed and threw
into the garbage barrel in his dusty back yard
until Onella stopped him saying
You leave those goddam things
right where they are and he said
Yes dear

for a decade the casa de Penny
became a flickering shrine to the miraculous
footprint of the Virgin seen by many
including Juan Diego Mendietta
who was said to be the first witness
and Isabel Ramones who gave the miracle

and it came to pass
at last Onella died of consumption
and el viejo Marvin Penny grew old and sacred
the hairs of his head white as snow
and en la tarde when he went
into his dusty yard
to sit in the warm sun and remember
all those events of his life
that never actually occurred
la gente would come to his house
to sit at his knees and view his face
where at times

when the light
shone from the exact right angle
a small perfect footprint
could be seen by a select few
who were chosen to be witness
and the paisanos would touch his shoulders
and the denim fabric of his clothing
whispering to him
beseeching forgiveness

David Lee was raised in West Texas, my home. He is the author of twenty books of poetry, the first Poet Laureate of Utah, and recently retired as the Chairman of the Department of Language and Literature at Southern Utah University. His many awards include the Mountain & Plains Booksellers Award in Poetry, the Western States Book Award in Poetry, and the Utah Governor's Award for lifetime achievement.

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