I've never met Rusty in real life, only virtually. But I like his style, the cut of his jib, his poems. I'm drawn to his sympathetic ear and tone of (written) voice. In these three poems we're treated also to his wryness, his sense of humor, his gusto for the English language ('a sniffet of your womanly charms'!!!), and-- not leastly--his wisdom. "Cousin, don't mess with a / ridgerunner woman," he writes in the third of these poems. Rusty, we ain't kin, but I'm taking that advice.
Dear So and So: my mind's gone slight
the way CrackerJacks sifted through
hide the prize in a dribble of grains and nuts.
I know that somewhere in there's something.
It's the way things work in here—
jumped into stick shapes,
mouthing grim doom-doldrums,
frying synapses in a pan of dopamine.
Crack the sky through with unsayables!
Lift the lid off the blue milk horizon,
skim an I-did-what? from the top,
gross out the kid-folk with jumpy nerves,
a lolled tongue (your antipsychotic rage),
the rich food of your coming senescence.
Sonnet for So and So
Dear So and So: I'm very bored.
I woke up jangled with caffeine,
the world alive in tongues, our
dipsomaniac host under the table.
Where are you, So and So, today
when I have endeavored to make
you mine instead of another dude's?
I offered you hundreds of miles of love,
but you can only handle five to twelve inches. Give
or take. What am I to do now with my baseless
lust, my demands for white cotton panties,
a sniffet of your womanly charms?
I dropped to my knees in this poem,
Hollywood Appalachian Noir: A Lesson
A Haitian moon shines over the lower holler,
I say, like the moon in a low fog.
Last week's garbage sidles slowly down the bank
of the gully where Grampa's thrown his trash
for the last 44 years. Shit, Mandy says, you
wouldn't know a Haitian moon if it hit you bang
between the eyes. You haven't been out
of these United States your entire life.
True, I say, but I know a Haitian moon when
I see one. Outside a paradiddle of skunks lie
in wait for Uncle Bill and his family to dump
their weekly coffee grounds and melon rinds.
They look like waiters in a fancy hotel I'd never
enter for fear of seeming—out of place. Mandy
is out under the moon in her barefeet and daisy
dukes, laughing up a jig with my clodhopper
friend Vaughan who is also waiting for melons,
but of a different kind. I love my wife and Vaughan,
but with his sweat-thick hair and brandy snifter ways
like having a job and cold green in his pocket,
whiskey he doesn't have to color with tobacco
and all the white teeth in sweet red gums
he didn't have to pay for on a plan but was born
with. All the teeth in the world won't save him.
Tonight when he drops his hands from Mandy's waist
to the fine and dimpled rounds of her buttocks I will
clock him from behind like clockwork with the subtle
knife of my intentions, which are to cold-cock him
and tie him pantsless to the hood of his BMW,
parade him through our small town like the cuckold
he tried to make of me, a specter of shame before all
the townspeople who elected him Selectman. How
they will titter and laugh behind their hands. Mandy
will run to me with the open arms of the reconciled
wife. Now Vaughan has done the deed he threatened
to do and I rise in my overalls and spotted t-shirt,
drain my beer and lift my arm to do him harm. But o
that dame Mandy, so saucy in her pink muff-diving t-shirt,
lifting her arm and canting her hip sideways in that reflexive
move that beautiful women with ample posteriors
are often born with, and I am distracted. Vaughan turns
round and strokes my jaw loose on its strings with his hard-
working fist. I am no hand at the arts of mayhem, I fear.
Soon I am ass-over-teakettle and not even Patrick Swayze
can save me now. Vaughan kicks me into next week,
from which I write this verse. Cousin, don't mess with a
ridgerunner woman. They will do you till you forget your
name then drop you for another man. You will wake
with a knot in your jaw and a pain in your crotch,
a pit bull named Lester slopping your nose with wet
kisses, the brutal truth stuck in your skull like knowledge
of God and the way babies learn to lodge under your skin
and never leave . There are fifty thousand things in these hills
you can name and know by doing so, but not one single thing
in the city you live who can stare back at you and say the same.
About the Poet: