Just write on my tombstone, Lord if I get a tombstone,
Or maybe just a honky-tonk wall,
That he was crazy for ladies, Lord, and guitars and babies
And a damned old fool for the waltz.
– Kell Robertson (“I Always Loved A Waltz”)
I imagine Kell and Scott have lots to talk about
in the poets’ corner of eternity, sorted-off
Bright Halo Street, jamming like they did
in that Durango motel, circling a gallon jug
around a dark, smoky room in gulps
of mutual approval, red wine, poetry and song
that no one will remember when I’m gone.
It will be good to see them on the curb,
guitar and backbeat drum, writing songs
for the small crowd down at Judas Tavern—
it’s an easy but sad place to write from.
We talked about it, asked honestly
if we don’t derail our own trains
just to have something new to write about?
Something good pulled from deep within
the desperate core of Everyman and Woman.
Ferlinghetti got it, saw poetry lose touch—
but not Kell and Scott: they kept the sweet
and weak away, didn’t play fancy shindigs.
Fence lines sag along the black bottom
farm land in southeast Kansas before
they become supermarket parking lots, but
“all I can see is what we’ve lost.”
for Kell Robertson and Scott Preston
* * * * * *
from Dry Crik Review, Fall 1991
THE NEW MIGRATION
They escape to the central
900 miles from the main office
in downtown L.A.
140 miles from the nearest
14 miles from the airport
three-quarters of mile up some
where they drop seven figures
on 6 or 8 thousand square feet
on a streambank
they’ll use a dozen times a year.
They install digital
burglar alarm & security systems
intercoms & push button combinations
that automate a massive gate
fashioned from the rustic hewn timbers
& a live in caretaker who doubles
as a trespasser heavy. Their
phone number is unlisted
no number on the gate
the driveway curves into infinity
six months of the year it’s
impassable with snow
& they bitch about why their Fedex
is guaranteed by noon instead
– Scott Preston
THE OLD MAN GOES HOME
Under the discount store
the fast food place
the furniture outlet
under all that asphalt
is one of the best chunks
of black bottom farm land
in southeast Kansas.
My granddad grew corn
wheat, oats and alfalfa,
rotating the crops by
his almanac and the taste
of the dirt, and there
under that corner
my grandma’s garden grew.
The house was somewhere
near the bicycle rack
and the barn was where
they have that bank
of video games.
Under all this asphalt and concrete
plastic and steel, I learned to cut
a calf, learned to drive a team of horses,
learned to work in this earth
and in that barn, learned
from a third cousin who
teetered on the edge of womanhood
another meaning for kisses
beyond the peck on the cheek
I got from grandma.
I close my eyes and see it,
butt my way under that old Jersey cow
squirt the hot steaming milk
into the cold tin bucket, hear
the hogs snorting around for slops
we saved for them.
I open my eyes and almost
get run over by a housewife
with a buggy full of disposable diapers
and sugar-coated cereals.
The security guard takes my arm, asks
if I’m alright, leads me out into the parking lot
asks me what I’m doing there if I’m not
going to buy anything.
I’m visiting my granddad’s farm I say
underneath all this crap
is the sweetest little farm
in southeast Kansas.
into the shimmering heat
rising from the parking lot
I swear I hear
grandma calling us for supper.
There’ll be beans and cornbread
and iced tea…tomorrow we’ll start
plowing the lower forty.
Then we’ll come home and sit
on the front porch, watching the dogs
playing in the yard, dreaming
of going to town next week
to sell some hay and get
a store-bought hat
to wear at the dance at the Grange Hall.
Maybe my cousin will be there
and she’ll teach me more
about this kissing business.
Looking back at the parking lot
full of people doing something
all I can see is what we’ve lost.
– Kell Robertson