Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Leo "The Lip" Durocher



Happy Birthday, Leo "The Lip" Durocher  (July 27, 1905 - October 7, 1991)

Gin rummy, poker, craps... great games
as long as you had them rigged, yet it was baseball
you held in rapacious, loving arms.  In thuggish
boyhood, you stole money from Babe Ruth,
your roommate on the the Yankees, then blackened
his eye for whining.  He called you, The pimple
on this team's hairy fuckin' ass.  But Jackie
Robinson and Willie Mays bought your fatherly act.
You're buried somewhere in Forest Lawn,
Hollywood Hills Cemetery, near your pal
(and Bugsy Siegel's pal) George Raft.
Baseball, being a three-time manager of the year,
got you the friends you could name drop,
just as they name dropped you for decades,
Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  Sparse hair
dyed red, blue eyes on fire, Nice guys finish last.
At the tail end, too stove up for swank golf
at the Tamarask Country Club in Palm Springs....
In the extra innings, in your eighties,
the beautiful women vanished, you hedged
bets, prayed to Jesus.  With a con man's wink,
not a few of your old players laughed.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Ghost of Ossie Vitt



The Ghost of Ossie Vitt

There's a swing-'n'-stumble old guy in a threadbare
turn-of-last century Detroit Tigers uniform
near home plate on the junior college field...
using a fire-scorched old Louisville Slugger fungo bat
to hit infield practice... grounders at absolutely nobody.

Long evening shadows of poplars stretch
from the first base line across the lush-green infield.
From the street, I can't make out who the man is.
Come on over here, he shouts.  Bring your glove.
When I walk around the 3rd base side dugout,
it's the ghost of Ossie Vitt, Where's your glove?
A true man always has his glove and bat handy.

He drops his fungo bat, walks across the infield,
starts picking up pebbles near third base.
Goddamnit, lend a hand.  We got to clear
this field of anything that can cause a bad hop.
It's been four decades, half a man's life,
since I've seen Vitt, since those boyhood
summers when I played, and horsed around,
at The San Franisco Examiner Baseball School.

How many times, you dummy, you got to be
told?  Catch the ball in the palm of the glove,
not the web.  Webs were put on gloves for the sake
of girls and sissies.  For old times' sake, I ask Vitt
if he's still bitter about Bob Feller and the other Indians
trying to get him fired from manager in 1940.
That was a team of petition-signing crybabies.
Vitt pokes my belly, laughs as if gargling glass,
You got no excuse, none.  You should be
using a medicine ball to harden your gut,
should be skippin' rope to get agile.
That's what me 'n' Ty fucking Cobb did.
Also we carried thick sheepskin rubbers,
because you can't have too much protection.

Vitt returns to his fungo bat, picks it up,
points to 3rd base, You want one more chance
to impress me?  This is the last one you get.
I shake my head, think about the Safeway
morning pastries little darlin' has on a shelf.
Vitt slams the bat off home plate, growls,
I ain't takin' guff from you, not you.
Watching you take grounders... 
your sloppy glove work at Graham Field,
that's what killed me.  Could a lived
ten more years.  But the memory
of Red Shuttleworth fielding at 3rd base,
like a nut case trying out for the circus...
that recollection, incidental stray thought...
that's what gave me a stroke, a killer
stroke on the last day of January, 1963,
my 73rd fucking birthday.
You're a bad glove.. a murderer.

Slump-shouldered, I walk out onto infield dirt,
pick up a magically-there 1940's Marty Marion glove,
look toward Vitt... and he's gone, just gone,
Ossie Vitt... who was once traded to the Red Sox
for a lefthanded pitcher named --for real-- Slim Love.






Saturday, July 23, 2011

That's Not Possible?



That's Not Possible?

The full wandering years of forever...
like the afternoon a black bear
came into a clearing at Crooked River,
way north of Prince George,
just to lightly stroke the hound's
forehead with one slow paw.

          ~

The blue gleam of a quarrel,
moose ribs on a lonely trail,
garbled words from a short wave radio,
miles of sub-zero night and no headlights,
a dog, dead forty years, coming back
each year on her birthday to run
crazed and happy in my skull.

          ~

Snowpacked road.  Railroad tracks.
A pale pink moose under a pallid sky.
When I get to Prince George late
that January afternoon, an Indian
on a street corner near my motel
asks me to buy him a large
Hawaiian pizza... for the sake
of my carcass of a soul.
He's bleeding from a split ear.
It's below zero and the snow,
when I walk away, crunches
like styrofoam.  When I get back,
he has a six-pack of cheap beer.
He laughs, I'm struck
by the fucked-upedness...
this town of trolls.
I tell him about the pink moose.
It's possible, he says.
When I was a boy
we used to get Christmas
presents from Toronto.


 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway



Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway  ( July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961)

They puzzled you, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett...
their circular talk of one day seeing the Grand Canyon.
That was not your country, nor is the country I live in:
rock, sage, rattlesnake, rainless weeks and months.
It's precisely that broken and arid in the universities...
perhaps no change there: aged virgins prattling
against you, worry-eyed tweed men pleased
with their own self-battering.  You never expected
to make friends in offices swollen with rancid custard.
Your words, still strong, most postmarked before my birth,
are tough to beat: you remain our Heavyweight Champ.
Trains no longer run on time, letter writing is email-bitched,
and the rich still announce forthcoming spousal splits
in expensive hotels surrounded by deep-green woods.
I imagine you forever homeward, a star we have
our lonesome eyes on, permanent as your novels.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hunter S. Thompson





Happy Birthday, Hunter S. Thompson
(July 18, 1937 - February 20, 2005)

The management does not believe you're dead, at least
at San Francisco's, far-from-downtown, Seal Rock Inn.
There's a large room reserved for you... stocked with Wild Turkey,
a mountain of grapefruits, a sack of coke from Peru, and the desk clerk
is doing all he can, with pepper spray, to disperse over three-dozen friends.
They have quick-printed invitations to your party.  They are sure
the doctor is going to be in... and the good times are triggered to roll.
You'd recognize the ocean-view room.  You trashed it, trashed it again,
trashed it... and management declared it The Thompson Suite.
Among your friends, shooting silly string at the desk clerk,
is Riya, owner of a Tenderloin massage parlor.
Riya says, I'm fifty-one going on nineteen.
You'd recognize this, good doctor, as a humble-tussle, nothing serious,
only the weird grief of story makers, autobiographical fantasists
who perhaps, in better and wilder days, shook your hand,
perhaps even read Songs of the Doomed to their children as bedtime stories.
At peak, San Francisco will be 64-degrees by late afternoon, cloudy...
wonderful for a roar down the Great Highway
and then south on 280 to Woodside where pot is still queen,
where shrines to you are being constructed with redwod burl,
slight likenesses of Hubert Humphrey... targets to be shot
dead-dead-dead... because you might have led the festivities.




This poem, and other bio-sketch poems, are included in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), available from Amazon:



Flood-Scarred Early Summer



Flood-Scarred Early Summer

A 19th century nickel-plated pistol
might be worth more than a volunteer
flood lake over a section of winter wheat.

A sinewy woman in a Liberty County,
Montana, grocery store, asks if she
might put milk and cornflakes on the tab.

New Mexico burns... Montana backstrokes
swollen rivers.  An old rancher folds
a newspaper, hides the weather report.

Over a hundred cow-calf pairs
sold to make it through, a rancher
drags a recliner into an empty corral.

A drifter buys a black bread sandwich,
roast beef on wilted lettuce, in Rudyard,
saddle blankets dirt-cheap at a lawn sale.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Ghost of Art "The Great" Shires



The Ghost of Art "The Great" Shires

We're trying to finish a game of baseball golf
with a hovering, thunderstorm-promise sky
getting bleak-darker by the minute.
From out of the sagebrush across the road
from the college ballpark, comes Art
"The Great" Shires... dapper in a wool
1928 Chicago White Sox uniform,
I'll stomp-kill any man who won't
let me take some hacks with you...
money-on-the-line, you bastards.

I glace into the sagebrush, spot a sparkle-
new Cadillac with his name painted
on the driver side door above crossed bats.
Shire's, on his first swing, rips a line drive
off the left field foul pole and the ball
ricochets right back at us like a meteor,
hits Shires on the jaw and drops
right in front of his polished spikes.

Bet you bastards don't know
I'm I-talian, Shires laughs,
born in Italy... Italy-fucking-Texas.
That's why Al Capone liked me.
We carried a bit of the same blood.
Murdered a couple of guys, I did,
though one might not count...
since he was a retired umpire.

Shires, vaudevillian-boxer-baseball star,
and now a ghost with boozy lung-cancer-breath:
I was so famous that Hollywood sets me up
to marry this girl from Milwaukee...
never set eyeballs on her big tits before..
but I'm a good sport where there's cash,
so they film us at city hall...and I give her
a hotel try-out that night and she's
okay, but pulls off some pitches...
if you know what I mean.

Shires, losing interest in baseball golf,
looks at the storm-to-come heavens,
Just like always, when I'm winning,
here comes lightning to betray me...
'cause the gods are jealous of my
swank looks... just in bitter-awe of me.



Andre Breton's Nadja... in San Francisco



Andre Breton's Nadja ... in San Francisco

Rather than appear for her audition
at the theatre on Geary, she sends a wine cork.
There is a moral value to presentation.

Nights alone at the Gaylord Hotel:
Breton's ghost flaps along hallways...
his red concrete blanket turns to powder.

The stamp collector in room 314 shouts,
Who gave me this paisley bellyache.
Nadja toasts him with raspberry vodka.

Nevertheless, it is Bastille Day among electric
palaces up on Pacific Heights, in the homes
of staved-in, intoxicated diplomats.

And Nadja feels tardy.  She begins a letter,
Dearest Andre, If I did not appear affectionate,
my map to joy was cigarette burned at its folds....

Long-legged Nadja strolls naked across
the Golden Gate Bridge... the ocean westward
no more to her than weed-green curtains.

I am a chilly river, she sings, caught
behind a movie screen... Clark Gable roping
wild horses as Marilyn Monroe smolders.

Nadja is in San Francisco with Dominican nuns
-- Mission San Jose-- now crowding her every step,
so she hides in her room, drinks more vodka.

There is cheering from the street below her room.
It is Bastille Day and granite-eyed Andre is falling
one silent raindrop at a time from a perfumed cloud.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Gustav Klimt




Happy Birthday, Gustav Klimt 
(July 14, 1862 - February 6, 1918)

Today you are painting in your garden:
champagne-colored Roses, Edelweiss,
the voluptuous brunette model holding still,
yet in a languid attitude of availability,
Alpine Carnations, small sunflowers....

And two other girls are at-frolic in the garden,
the lithe brunette, a street nini, and escapee
from a parsonage or nunnery... who knows for sure? 
And the new girl, a strawberry-blonde,
beautifully naked but for a blue leather
dog-collar-necklace... flame-red pubic hair
spring bud nipples... her sweet voice
like raindrops on crystal goblets.

Your brush work is light, feather-soft.
The strawberry-blonde flirts,
asks if she would make
a wealthy young gentleman's cocotte,
floats past you in near-orgasm,
and you, you who dislike social life,
are aroused by intimacy with blush-radiant skin,
velvety skin.  And the brunette you are painting
flows her hands down her breasts and belly
in joyful competition for your next caress.

Today Gustav, at liberty, you are in your
fecund garden, painting a nude.
Science and industrialism enslave.
Eros, ecstasy-eternal, supple in gold
arousal-light, gives freedom.



This poem and other bio-sketch poems are presented in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), a poetry book available from Amazon:




 

Happy Birthday, Julius Caesar




Happy Birthday, Julius Caesar
(July 13, 100 BC - March 15, 44 BC)

Perhaps you are a comet now... providing joy rides
across the cosmos for Jupiter.  As a birthday present
 to you in 1881, Pat Garrett shot dead one Billy the Kid.
The next July 13th Johnny Ringo shot himself
so that he might address you in cracked Latin.
Forgotten are Marcus Thermus and Servilius Isaricus,
your military mentors.  Descent from Venus
weighed heavy enough for you to dirty-fuck
goddess-queen Cleopatra... your son by her
later murdered in Rome upon your dying blood.
Perhaps you are a comet, riotously laughing,
seeking a planet you can crash into:
a final relieving of all the other deities'
silly indulgences and interventions.
The sky tonight blazes purple.



This poem is included in Red Shuttleworth's collection of bio-sketch poems, Ghosts & Birthdays (Kris Wetherholt's Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), available on Amazon:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Andrew Wyeth




Happy Birthday, Andrew Wyeth
(July 12, 1917 - January 16, 2009)

It was a last squint and a quiet passing, so clear
no one held a mirror close to your craggy face.

The sweetness of desire, enthrallment
with a German girl, someone else's wife,
and shyly you ask if you might... paint her.
Borrowed attic, autumnal field: Helga comes
thirsty... drinks plain iced tea from your cup.
You speak of distant stars or newspaper
delivery boys... only Helga on the bed knows,
turning over and over, droplets of sweat
dampening an off-white Montgomery Wards
cotton sheet.  Her secret.  Your secret.

Wild blonde hair, most often in pigtails,
no silly grins, her full breasts, farm-fit body
summer-moist... she lets you,
roughly-handedly, at-first,
position her for the immortality
of sugar-loaded light.
Your secret. Wife untold. 
Her secret. Husband untold. 

Your hands skim perfect skin
and you catch the scent
of oranges and leather gloves
and she silently watches
you bulge and... perhaps she....

And in the last years she strokes
your spasmed muscles,
props your head up
for an extra pillow...
lets her hair down, her wild
golden hair in light not tarnished
by fame for being your Helga...
muse and naked angel.






Sunday, July 10, 2011

Elmer Kelton

Red Shuttleworth and Elmer Kelton, 2001


Elmer Kelton (1926-2009), among the greatest writers on the West, was a recipient of seven Spur Awards for novels (including The Day the Cowboys Quit and The Time It Never Rained ) and three Western Heritage Awards.  As early as 1977, with decades of wonderful writing ahead, Kelton received the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement from Western Writers of America.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Haunted Blood



Haunted Blood

You are a clergyman soaring on
Job, Chapter 21... and coming down hard
near Saco, Montana: your late June
sweat could fill a rural mailbox.
You require a quiet room, a firm-like bed
with at least a thrift store counterpane
and pillows that carry no more
than a faint odor of cigarette ashes.

          ***

The hotel's first floor is empty.
Or: one room is storage for ashes
of suicides refused at a Catholic cemetery.
Someone keeps chasing away the boy
who sharpens his mail order knife
on the hundred-year-old brickwork.

          ***
The Big Dome Hotel is not
precisely in ruins.  A woman in a dirty blue robe
(carved stone?) stares down at a man as he snaps
a picture from across the breath-empty street.

          ***

I'm thirsty on a skeleton-dry afternoon.
The scream of a gym class whistle
comes from the old hotel's second floor.
Seems no one in this town takes
prescription mood-turn pills.

          ***

When an ancient local schoolmarm,
straight-up-thin and stern for ninety-four years,
died in her lifetime rented-by-the-week room,
the locals found four or five Stetson hat boxes
containing canned pineapple chunks,
one lock of ash-blonde hair in an envelope,
two shotgun shells, a dried possum tongue,
and a photograph, from a holiday
in San Francisco, of live chickens
window-displayed in wire cages.

          ***

You are a recently fired (five drunkenly
wrecked white pick-up trucks) oil company exec.
The old hotel reminds you of stacks of shrink-
wrapped seventies Playboy magazines
your teenage sons have for sale on Ebay.
It reminds you of the ex wife who always
left her licked-out plastic yogurt cups
on your super-polished maple bookcase.
The hotel's front doors are locked.
Someone's coming up the street
sitting a dun mare and someone is
taking pictures from a parked car...
images you want no part of.

 

Great Plains Aisling



Great Plains Aisling

In a museum of desire-dreams,
lush late June grass and a volunteer lakelet.
It's hard to imagine waist-high
December fingerdrifts across
these dirt roads to abandoned homes.
The next big rain is days off.
More flooding by the weekend.
In the last town, FEMA was set up
in an old blacked-out movie theater.
If I turn around, I'll see again
a farmer and his realtor subdividing
ground adjacent to a two-lane road...
maybe so his daughters can buy
white face powder, oxblood lipstick,
and black velvet to become goth girls.

Earlier, some guy's sweet baby waved
from an SUV's side window,
perhaps loopy on weed,
thrilled with turquoise earrings
and a necklace bought weeks ago
in old Santa Fe.  Earlier, it was beer
for breakfast at roadside,
a fruitless search for the meaning of anger.
I am sixty-six like a tarnished brass
doorknob in a cowboy town bordello.

The lakelet somehow reminds me
of potholders I made in grade school,
dusky deer taking water at sunrise,
countless Lone Ranger masks I owned
with matching school lunch boxes,
a lean and curvy Ely barmaid-angel
playing European with hairy armpits.

By warm evening I'll be two-hundred
miles away... in some Montana bar
nodding at boasts of flesh and trickery,
broken vows... smoker coughs...
wishing forever-peace to this
temporary jewel of cloud water.




St. Regis, Montana, Blues



St. Regis, Montana, Blues

The narrow two-lane road west
from the four-way stop lights,
the road I wanted to morning-drive with a beer,
is flood-crumbled and more rain's on the way.
A Greyhound bus lurches into town
off the freeway... passengers running for
the nearest filthy toilets, trailing burger wrappers
from Missoula and parts further east.

The dog's driver says he ran over two tube
tents on the off ramp.  Bawling like spring calves,
a couple of women by the casino appear
to be reassembled photographs of carnival geeks.
The women have greasy bowl-cut chestnut hair,
twins in their forties crashed by mortgage-misery...
off to discover the West.  One calls to me,
You a real cowboy?  I wave back,
Naw, just a salesman of freeze-dried
pork chops and add-warm-water ice cream.

Three weeks on the road, tired as
a whorehouse mattress inspector,
I stand by my rig, throat-burned
from gutting Copenhagen juice...
stand there in St. Regis only
because my buddy Nuno said,
It's the roughest, weirdest bus stop
in America... well-oiled by through traffic,
bus passengers with loose change,
and crazy-house runaway patients.

Up-freeway I stop in Wallace, Idaho,
happy to sit in the rain with a whiskey
outside a bar across from an antique store:
kids with guitar cases, an IGA grocery store
at the edge of town, summer mountain mist,
a couple in a doorway softly breaking up...
the girl in a sky-blue peasant blouse
and cut-off fashion jeans, the girl's face knotty
as she asks, We'll always be friends?
Like even much later than this?
The boy and girl are eating chocolate
bagels like St. Regis and places like it
are no more than sidewalk gum wads.
So much of my heart's country is butchered.


          ~ for Nuno Santos






Monday, July 4, 2011

My Face Vanishes from the Rear View Mirror



My Face Vanishes from the Rear View Mirror

Road music from the cratered moon
vibrates a bullet-pocked road sign.
A bristly hot wind rises.
Half the light bulbs
in the last motel were dead.

The breakfast waitress said,
It's paltry yield these days.
She gently set down
my bacon and fried eggs,
God is wildest at twilight,
having lost all hope
after a day's bitter work.
She was  go-to-hell-sure
the cafe was out of blueberry pie.

I am driving... days past
my best heart-velocity...
in confirmation of sharing
a leftover, overnight-
refrigerated T-bone
with a Bismarck,
North Dakota 
parking lot mutt...
driving through ghosts
of long-shipped cattle.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bill Markley, Lucia Robson, and Red Shuttleworth

Bill Markley, Lucia Robson, and Red Shuttleworth
at the 2011 annual meeting of Western Writers of America.


Bill Markley's articles on the West appear in True West, Roundup Magazine, and other journals.  Markley is the author of Dakota Epic, an account of the filming of Dances with Wolves.

Lucia Robson's Spur Award-winning novels are Ride the Wind and Last Train from Cuernavaca.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Will Bagley and Red Shuttleworth

Red Shuttleworth and Will Bagley


Historian Will Bagley is the author of Blood of the Prophets and So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1840-1848.  Among the most distinguised and honored of contemporary historians, Bagley has written and edited many books.

Strings (#1): Climbing



Climbing

Did you mean to say that to me?
It must be the candle smoke
bringing tears to our eyes.
What is it that we set the alarm for?

          ***

We are rocking-rocking on Linoleum,
clutching old gloom, twitchy-lipped.
We are on scraped-bloody knees
and on stone tablets from anybody's god.

          ***

Caesar paws his sunlit head,
walks rapid beside his stallion,
saying to it, Keep an eye on me.
His shade laughs at omen and shield.

          ***

Baby says, What you don't realize....
Sand and sawdust, last times and new times,
able more and able no more: Take it easy.
For the love of some god, put down that glass.

          ***

A river-shallow late summer in Georgia,
Doc Holliday feels askew... reading Euripides,
Better a saucy whore than a mother-in-law's
finicky daughter.  Doc feels older than twelve.

          ***

Before the many years detached, solitary:
cash in a cranny and a prairie hen over a fire.
Furnished many moments calm, a few mud holes,
it was plenty to watch a Wolfhound nose a cow skull.

Jim Jones (singer / songwriter) and Red Shuttleworth

 Jim Jones and Red Shuttleworth
at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota...
not precisely poolside party guys.


 Jim Jones
(at the Western Writers of America annual meeting)
accepts his 2011 Spur Award finalist award.


Singer / Songwriter Jim Jones

Novelist Max McCoy and Red Shuttleworth

Max McCoy and Red Shuttleworth
with their 2011 Spur Awards
from Western Writers of America


Max Mcoy (novelist, screenwriter, investigative journalist) received a 2011 Spur Award from Western Writers of America for his novel Damnation Road.  McCoy is the author of fourteen novels.  He and Red Shuttleworth are good friends.

Max McCoy

Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth Celebrate Their 2011 Spur Awards

 Paul Zarzyski (winner of a 2011 Spur Award for Western Song)
and Red Shuttleworth (2011 SpurAward for Poetry)
Celebrate with Lash and Pecos
Near Great Falls, Montana



 Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth
Drink with "Mr. Mink"



 Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth
Celebrate Receiving Spur Awards
from Western Writers of America.
Zeke Zarzyski is Worn Out



Red Shuttleworth and Paul Zarzyski
(holding their 2011 Spur Awards)
with Zeke Zarzyski...
Ready to Rock 'n' Rowel


* The photographs were snapped by Elizabeth Dear. 
(West of Great Falls, Montana)