Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Poem by Shelby Stephenson

A Selection from Country

All over the place forceful resources
double and riffle effect into Ownership,
multiplying and dividing the Wide Sea of
Heartbreak, object as dream-lover wrecked as the
lives of tenant-farmers “throwed away” to
unending poverty, as Linda Flowers writes,
art as business done for, fallen to pieces like
the unused dollhouses of pasteboard little
girls worship or a Ken that never catches on,
though 2012 may be his year, Barbie already
on the road again to fame, however rocky, wide
and deep, as the one leading Don and Phil Everly:
you tell me some brother duets − harmonious,
splendid with faith in a permanent artistry
and belief in entertainment as a business too
and I’ll show you the Everlys − Kentuckians,
moving to Nashville for stardom in the glory of
dashing neon, their meeting with Felice and
Boudleaux Bryant who wrote “Bye Bye Love”
for the boys who eased right on out into easy
pickings: “Wake Up Little Susie” woke up
Joan & John Q. Public: the brothers left
wakes of success right and left, showing up
on the Ed Sullivan Show and Dick Clark’s
American Bandstand, the Bryants contributing
“All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bird Dog,” a
silly song, I thought, until I remembered my
father’s hounds: as I’ve said before, Daddy
said Slobber Mouth could outrun the Word of God
with the Bible tied to His tail. Whose oh
Whose? Somewhere the rainbow fills of gold.
The Everlys wrote “Cathy’s Clown,” “Devoted to
You,” “When Will I Be Loved”: they parted
ways, on and off again, you never know: the F
word I wonder about, too, if it could be the
flourishing fad or fenced-in finish to
coherence, where the popular flap-doodle
dies over one syllable which means what it
says, the after-glow of love-making strung with
strings of the violin family and held, the word
dedicated to music in rows down and back;
plows plovers follow, crying in soft autumn,
killdeekilldee, the breaking furrows folding
and following, leading the feet of the plowman and
Fever, his mule, without worry, the Sea of Clods
there in the swimming landscape, harking
back to the Greeks and Romans, perhaps called a
“cither,” as words get cited and bend out of
shape along the decades, fiddlers keeping
Time, especially on viols shaped like Europe
I revered in Miss Jones’s fourth-grade class at
Cleveland, upon hearing the words Tigris
and Euphrates, rubbing my fingers across the
cover of the Geography Book, the future
tuned in four strings of varying thicknesses − and
fixed, stretched across a bridge on a box, adjusted by
means of pegs inserted in the head, tuned and
played by the fiddler’s pressing down or
stopping the strings with fingers on the fingerboard,
all part of the neck, scrolled: what sounds come when the
bow vibrates those strings, a continent of worlds −
North America, blending traditions, fusion in
styles from England, Ireland, and Scotland,
varieties of styles, the stiles turning, tuning in
concert halls and honky-tonks, barrooms, backyards,
fields and fields of festivals, bluegrass, new grass,
country, western, classical, jigs, reels, hoedowns,
throw-downs, general stores (check out R.A. Fountain General
Store and Internet Café, Fountain, North Carolina),
hootenannies, jubilees, jamborees, camp
meetings, barnyards, cornshuckings, turkey-trots,
pig-pickings, taffy pullings at St. Peter’s Basilica,
church socials, tractor-pulls, picking parlors,
living rooms, back-porch swings under last night’s
full moon, the fiddler pulling a bow with
many other fiddlers served by Mastertone
banjos and Gibson and Martin guitars,
Kay bass fiddles and Gibson mandolins,
Emmons or Speedy West steels and some snares,
keyboards, underlining the Fiddle. Ashley’s
hammer finds the finishing nails whackwhackwhack:
he’s been here since early morn, building a
shelter for the Equator, the Leonard, and the
Grumman: I’m into the well of F’s, take one:
placed a poem yesterday in White Pelican Review
out of Tampa: “The Burr in My Stride”: I feel it
now, really a page or two from Paul’s Hill:
Homage to Whitman: I need you O bearded
Father of Long Lines, innovator-equator
riding the I-am with busted tires on our open
road, for poetry, digs yielding rich lodes:
saw in the paper today someone around Hiddenite,
North Carolina, dug in one of those gem
mines and a vein the size of a seven-up-bottle
yielded an emerald worth 1.5 mil: now
that’s a chunk of change: my tank, cap-less,
coolant corrosive down to my Hanes around
my ankles, I am wobbly as a new-born calf
reeling out from its mother’s tits, the cow herself at loose
ends, tail raised for a brown gully-gusher − oh if
she were a gazelle with legs to spraddle and run
fast from the lips of her new-born babe.
Shelby Stephenson's Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Prize for Poetry, Allen Grossman, judge.

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