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Winter 1996, Volume 13.1

Poetry

 

David Lee


Not only a national figure who has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, David Lee has been for nearly a quarter century among Utah's most beloved and widely read poets. From his early books,
The Porcine Canticles and The Porcine Legacy, to the forthcoming Covenants and My Town, Lee has charted lives of ordinary rural people in the language that defines and expresses them. He has not only lifted these previously unsung lives into the view of habitual readers of poetry, but has also made poetry accessible and meaningful to many who would never have imagined themselves reading a collection of poems, much less a collection of poems written by a scholar of Milton, Dante, and the BibleRead other work by David Lee published in Weber Studies: Vol. 5.1 (Poetry)Vol. 13.1 (Conversation)Vol. 20.1 (Poetry)Vol. 23.3 (Poetry); Vol. 24.3 (Poetry).

 

Rhapsody for the Good Night

         Christmas Eve '94
         Matthew 8:22

     For Jon and Jodee, With Love

1
Libations
liquid and flowing
beneath the knees of the gods

Strangest man ever was E.U. Washburn
his bible name was Ethopian Eunuch
come from that family opened the book
whatall was there got named
had Cephas Peter that we called C.P. or Junior
and hated because he went to school studying typewriter
come back educated where he known
the meaning of life and wrote it in a 4 page paper
for the college
loved to tell about it but never got the idea
wasn't nobody listening
the other brother Phillip Chariot
we called Bubber because he had his harelip
so he watched television until Floyd Scott
got fired at Christenson's Brothers
they hired Bubber to make coffee and clean office
nurse tried to not let them name him that
but Dr. Tubbs sed go ahead
they'll call him by the letters anyway
they did so E.U. worked at the graveyard
digging and tending with Jesus Salinas

he's the baby so they raised him with Bubber
probley not talking a whole lot
when he's grown up most people or some
never known he could say nothing at all
some sed he was deaf and dumb
     addled but they's wrong all 3 ways
     he mostly didn't like to talk
he'd come to the cafe by hisself
set and listen and nod

oncet it wasn't no place open to be with people
I went back to where he was in the booth
sed E.U. can I set here with you drinking coffee?
looked at me but I never set down till he nod
sed how ya'll anyway? he lipped justfine
1st time I heard him say anything
when we through not saying nothing
for a 1/2 hour listening to the otherns
I sed I gotta go you need a ride?
I had to drive past the graveyard to the farm
he never sed nothing then either
got up paid his bill
went out got in my truck
both of us drove to work that way
for moren a year till I got a job
at the sawmill and had to leave early

he talk soft
couldn't play no radio to hear him
when he sed something at all

sed them's the hardest that day when I sez
it's bad about that Reuben Jimenez boy
who was in the boy Scouts until he
died of the appendicitis when he's 14 in high school
on the operating table without waking up
it was a month later before he sed more
that was what opened the gate

sed that boy isn't figured out he's gone yet
I dunno what to do about it
they buriet him in the wrong place
isn't nobody there to help him or tell him what to do
I sez whar?
didn't have no idea what he's talking about
he sed that Jimenez boy
longest speech he'd sed up to then
I had to think for almost a week
couldn't make it add I sez how do you know? then
without asting what? he sed
I can tell

2
nightbird
and the hum of pickup tires
on hardscrabble

I listen
behind the mockingbird behind the wind
behind the sound a taproot makes
working its way down to water
past that I can hear them
theygn hear me too
if they want to
but they mostly don't
sometimes I talk
not to them mostly
to myself to the wind
to the field mouse under the plastic grass
in the shed by the mesquite tree
sometimes they pay attention
it's other ways too
like how they settle in to stay
or don't

Leona Huffington there
has her back to her husband
won't talk to him
but doesn't even know
he don't care

Baucis and Philemon Rojas had both
sed look for a bright spring sunrise they'd be
in bed sleeping in their morning garden
next to each other past tomorrow's dawn
Jesus thought the one plot was fine with the
headstone with one name but both in the one
red box under a blanket dressed that way
he wasn't sure of but they'd planned it through
it was what they wore their first night they wrote
so Rufus did just like they said then we
planted on both sides of their place the two
rose stalks they'd raised by their garden window
roses bloom now over the stone in a
bow bright red as Easter morning sunshine

that other rosebush over there by Tommy Malouf
it's growing right out of the palm of his hand
and in that flowerplant it's a mockingbird every day
pointing itself right at
Janie Grace Gossett who got killed
in the car wreck in high school singing
aint never a weed grown at her place
that Malouf boy give her flowers and the song
she settled right in knowing she belonged

some out there's helpless
like that Reverent Brother Strayhan
found out it aint at all
like what he been told to think
now it's too late

biggest surprises
was Ellis Britton and Kay Stokes
everybody thought Ellis he wouldn't never
fit in cause he's so mean
he was the happiest I ever seen
found out we's all wrong
he never hated the people
he hated the living
Mistah Stokes now on the other hand
he hated us all
so he aint never settled in
probley won't
at least as long as Jesus is watching
can't get used to not being in charge

on a night of a full moon that comes on a payday
I seen Jesus out there with him getting drunk
telling him about all the times he come
thrown him and his family off the No Lazy S
sworn at him in front of his chirren and dog
now he sez well now Mr. Kay Stokes I believe
I'll go fishing down to the tank by the blue gate
     catch me that big catfish they say down there
     so what you think about that Mr. Kay Stokes dead man?

I'll swear I seen
one thousand dandelion weeds pop up
all over that grave in a night
when he's been listening to Jesus
whole grave come up 3 inches
he's trying so hard to get out
I rakes him back down in the morning sunshine

Ellis Britton settled
in 2 weeks or a month
so fast we never paid it mind
when the otherns out there saw he's ready
they started the rumor
we all have to come back do it again
he slunk down deep and low as he could
holding on tight
took 2 wheelbarrows to level him up
he just fine
a satisfied mind

3
Music is silence
he reason we have the notes
is to emphasize the silence.
Dizzy Gilespie

owl say who
preacher say whar
Rufus say here
me and Jesus
we start building
a hole in the ground
he sing
Lead me gently home father

dying
crying
singing
preaching
praying
bringing
burying
then we all begin
the next beginning
covering
forgetting
remembering
calling
neglecting
loving
hating
moving on along

out here
back there
all the same:
wind blow
bird sing
grass grow
churchbell ring

nightime quiet
it all sink in

4
romantic interlude
of a windy afternoon:
sunlight and elmshadow on stone

year later Christmastime
I seen E.U. of a morning sed set down
we drank coffee till the otherns left
he sed I got that Jimenez boy settled
I sez you did? he sed yas
but it almost costed me the farm

wasn't nobody helping
they done forgot about him
all alone and scairt
down there whar it aint no time
I had to extablish a reason
they had to hep him in

I known if I could get Mistah Kay Stokes
working against my case
they'd all the rest hep that boy
I sed aint we all from the same clay?
he sed mebbe that's so boy
but it aint no jug is a vase

I sed does a man
have to come down there early
to set that boy to rest at home
cause if you aint gone do it
then I'll have to
Jesus'll clean your yard alone

that's whatall it took
Ruby Patrick sed to her own daddy
neither one's porcelain so there you go
Janie Grace Gossett sed whar's that boy?
Tommy Malouf sed I'll find him
mockingbird flown to the Rojas rose

it was a whispering in the grass
in the trees in the wind whar? sed Ellis
whar's he at whar's he at they sed donde donde
mockingbird took him the song
in words he could understand
in a day the prodigal son he come home

5
in his hand a glass
filled with the moon
       drowned in branchwater
or
what E.U. said
on Christmas day

here's to the new year
and here's to the old one
and here's to the place in between
the sunrise and the morning
between the midnight and the fullmoon

that place

between the owlcall and the mockingbird
between the roostercrow and the last henlight
under the trees under the rose
under the grass under the shadow of a footprint
that place
where all the naming and the doing
where all the listening and talking
where all the lying and the truesaying
where all the storying and the singing
where all the words theyselves
which is the first and last thing of all
slide into quiet
that dark sleeping place they can call home
just between the dreamsay
and the realsay of it all
that place
where those who know
who live there
know that without the making and remembering and telling
to help us all get on along
it aint no difference or worth finally
in none of it at all

 

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