Quickdraw Blues

I’m going on down to the river
where the bodies float downstream,
going cuz life’s an Indian giver—
gone in a flash; a gunsmoke dream.

Going to throw my Smith & Wessons
into the water, down deep;
I have learned all of my cowboy lessons
and I’m going for a long sleep.

You can get railroaded by your past;
can get lynched, tarred, and feathered,
hung up by a mob of memory amassed
by the wrongs done, and wrongs weathered.

The ghosts gather like an outlaw gang
and steal all what you hold dear—
you may have caught ‘em with a hair-trigger bang,
but they’re the horseflies, you’re the steer.

It’s a haunted life you gotta lead,
carrying all of ‘em dead
and rememberin’ every misdeed
like a crow cawing in your head.

Once upon a time I knew of love,
(a mirage in desert lands)
and she was gentle as the cooing dove,
gunned down by my own quickdraw hands.

Standing in the bedroom corner, shawled
by the morning light behind,
she looked like a wraith of wrath from Hell called,
or least so in my haunted mind.

Before I knew just what I had done
my pistol flashed from the hip
and her pale breast bloomed red, the guilty gun
breathing Death’s black smoke at the lip.

My whole goddamn life has been high noon
and the squint remains, blinding,
which is why I will be downriver soon,
down that deep river unwinding.

To Jalacy Hawkins

You had the operatic crescendo
of Hell’s Freak Show barker,
a Big-Top Ringleader of
Rhythm-and-Blues
whom even the lions shrank from
in abject humility,
so bad was their stage-fright
after they heard your roars.
Your voice was a Carnival ride of
highs and lows,
a rollercoaster screaming
through the stars
and crooning deep under the
gurgling sea.
And the sound effects of the
guitar and drums
skirted timidly the
Looney Tunes zaniness
that should have been silly,
but was somehow masterful
in its dynamo-powered vociferations.
Cavorting on stage like
Vincent Price
in the throes of a
frenzy, you have not been
outdone
in your voodoo magic yet—
not one shock-jock-rock-crock
has had the
alligator chops or the
melodramatic gimmicks
to do what you could do
standing alone in front of the microphone
and embodying the manic mayhem
of human expression,
putting a spell on us all.

Four Poems

Autumn Splendor
Molten gold apocalypse
through flame-palmed crimson leaves—
blinding blast of a mock-eclipse;
a war-drunk dawn that bereaves.

The Blues
Met the Devil down in the delta
of Louisiana, the sorta’ fella’
who could sing any song a capella,
his voice smooth as sarsaparilla.

He had a diamond-studded cigar case
and he smoked souls with a smile on his face
while watching those who’d try that hobbled chase
of fame and fortune, that tired musk-rat race.

“You don’t have much to lose,”
he said, grinning at his own ruse.
“Except everything, if you so choose
to learn how you get you the Blues.”

But I was a right, ripe fool way back when
and didn’t see the trick he was playing then,
and when he said I’d lose it all to sin
I scoffed, like all those other Blues men.

My daddy got drunk, hit his head and died,
my wife left to live on the greener side,
and I lost my house to the rising marsh tide;
then my Blues found me, like a deathbed bride.

I picked up my guitar, and I slid my fingers all along
those biting strings, those bracing frets, the song
that came to my fingers being of sadness and of wrong;
my voice like a bullfrog’s— deep, woeful, strong.

I sang about wealth and I sang about fame,
I sang about sin and I sang about shame.
I sang about forgiveness and I sang about blame,
I sang about everyone, never saying no name.

But nobody’d listen to me or my tune
‘cuz my grooves grieved like some sad-lulling loon
calling out from the lake, lonely beneath the moon,
and all because I wanted the Blues too soon.

So I went back to that Devil and to him I said,
“I don’t want the Blues no more, Dickie Red.”
And he answered with a shake of his slick ol’ head,
saying, “The Blues will last till you’re done dead.”

And now I got the Blues, for all they’re worth,
and I can’t feel no pleasure, or joy or mirth,
bidin’ my time, like a crab among the surf
while my days go on by, this sorrowing earth.

Crippling Euphemisms
To nail wings onto Tiny Tim’s crutch
to make it look like a rocket
and to think you have done so much
to straighten his leg, socket to socket.
He will not fly to the moon,
nor will he run and play like other boys,
but you’ve created false hope which soon
crashes and burns and utterly destroys.

Conceit
The conceit that senseless word salad
could somehow nowadays be deemed
a poem, the misnomer made valid
by a hashtag alone, not by what it seemed,
is not unlike the village idiot grinning
and thinking himself the new constable
because he had played at a carnival, winning
a plastic badge; it is demonstrable
of the times, of the mediocre standards
that preside like a village idiot over all,
commanding attention with bland words
and the clueless noise of a town-crier’s call
after he has drank a barrel’s worth of beer
and slurred, proudly, Pig Latin to many a deaf ear.