Poem of the Week | February 15, 2016

This week we’re pleased to offer another poem from our new winter issue, 38.4. David Lee is retired, had a big year, including receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and spends most of his time working on his personal perfection of the Art of Piddling and Staring whilst scribbling and wandering byways and trails. He mostly splits his time between Mesquite, Nevada and Seaside, Oregon, his winter and summer digs, respectively.
Author’s note:

We were moving, which is a bit like dying and going to hell. We had to drive back to Texas and rent another U Haul to bring the rest of our “stuff” to our new digs in Nevada; we took a short cut over the Kaibab forest and through Houserock Valley, Arizona. It had rained and the desert was in a bloom like I’ve never seen in almost 50 years of living in this area, so we pulled over to take a break and venerate. We started a veneration revolution, as within minutes half a dozen cars pulled over and we had a mass gape. Then one person said, “This is stupid. Here we are grown up adults standing and staring at a bunch of goddam flowers. What do we think we’re doing?” And I first thought of Houseman’s “Terrence, This is Stupid Stuff,” and then my own poem began to materialize. Several months and a dozen revisions later, this is what happened.


Globe Mallow

Redux: Houserock Valley
April 2015


Turn out right there Jan said
and I said okay and
pulled off the highway
and Jan got out with her camera
started taking pictures
Globe Mallow spread thigh high
across the red desert
thick as Moses’ sea
tangled with Pharaoh’s chariots


then another car pulled off
and another then one more
all of us like children
in a field of strawberries
stretching to the edge of horizon
lapping over into otherworld


and then the ‘84 Ford
doors flung open
driver bolting for a ditch
and a long bleeding of the lizard
passenger sauntering toward us
eyes agape, neck turning
Whatchyall looking for
is it some dead bodies out heah?


Jan gestured toward the wild flowers
turned back to pleasure
he turned to me
What all yall taking them pictures of?
I said Globe Mallow
we’ve never seen such profusion
Seen such of a what?
The flowers I said
What’d you say they was?
Globe Mallow


Like marsh mellers? he said
and I said Yes, exactly
they are in bloom like we’ve
Never seen before
That where marsh mellers come from?
and I, too, thought hard for us all,
My only swerving
and said: Yes
they’re in full bloom
and this fall they will have fruit
spread across this field
like high caprock Texas cotton on a rain year


Is it worth any much? he said
and I said Yes, so I’ve heard
a four ounce bag in a grocery store
goes for two dollars I’ve been told
and a tow sack full might hold
what? one hundred pounds? at four
two dollar sacks to the pound
and he said Jesust Christ


can you pick it?
and I said On the outside
of the fence, inside is Indian land
only the Navajo can harvest there
that’s how they all get those new pickups
this side of the fence is BLM
and belongs to the American public
You wouldn’t be shitting me now?
and I said No sir
I am a retired Professor of English
and I have neither patience
nor respect for hyperbolic felicity
that being beneath my dignity
he said You swear to god?
and I said Yessir
I will swear to whatever god you believe in
that that’s exactly what I said


Jan was staring at me with her look
I shrugged in the sunlight
hoping I was bursting into blossom
Looks like it’s going to be
one hell of a crop this year
but he had already turned
striding toward his car
with purpose and enthusiasm
LeRoy he yelled Whar you at?
Get back to the car
I got me something to tell you
Hurry up goddammit


a rip-snorter for Bill and Dorothy
Te amo