Poem of the Week | May 12, 2014

This week we’re delighted to offer a poem by David Lee from our new spring issue, 37.1. Lee splits his time between Bandera, Texas and Seaside, Oregon, where he scribbles and wanders available byways and trails, all at about the same rate and pace. He is currently in advanced training to achieve his goal of becoming a World Class Piddler.
Author’s note:

After I finished the poem “Tough” ( the tale of the death of Ralph Ragsdale’s wife Buena Vista Ragsdale), Ralph appeared to me in a dream and said some version of the following: “you were purdy tough on me in that pome you wrote about Buena Vista and I don’t think I deserve it all that much, after all I defended her honor in that fight I had with Odus Millard down to the pool hall.” So I asked What fight? and he told me the story. And so I wrote it. And as they say in Tejas, that’s purdy much all they are to it.


An Elegiac Point of Honor


After it was over and done
the dust settled and nobody killed
nobody arrested and thrown in jail
people from every corner of town
said it was the best thing
that man ever did in his life
but why the hell did he quit so soon?


Ralph Ragsdale played snooker alone
because nobody wanted to shoot with him
being so inept he’d take an hour
to play and lose against himself
and also because on his best day
he was deemed a useless dullard and anybody
playing with him would be tainted by association


but on that moment he whirled and hit Odus Millard
his veritable mal-equal who every day sat by himself
on the raised wall bench hateful and miserable
contemplating conversion to Republican
with his pool cue and when he squealed
like a shoat being castrated hit him again
until he ceased squealing and then he stopped


not one person in Billy’s Pool Parlour raised a hand
to break it off or hollered Y’all quit it now
or called Sheriff Red Floyd
to come see if Odus was alive
or Victor Hudman at the mortuary to collect the remains
all glorying in Odus Millard’s misfortune
which was universally adjudicated appropriate


after he lay whimpering
under the snooker table a sufficient time
to realize he would unfortunately survive
Bus Pennel called his wife
at the Waybourne Pig Cafe to tell her
she ought to come down and get him
if she managed a break working coffee counter


by the time she came Odus
was back sitting on the raised wall bench
wiping his face and hair
with a chalkboard erasing towel
she said Who did it?
he said That goddam Ralph Ragsdale
he hurt me real good this time


and here where they were both who swilled
at the trough of the Goddess of Second Chances
she went over to Ralph playing snooker
by himself again said Did you hit Odus
with a pool cue? And when he said Yes I did
she said How come you to stop so quick?
and he said Guess I got tored


she said You want to tell me why for?
he said Your goddammed Odus he said
the only reason Buena Vista had legs was so she
wouldn’t leave a trail like a slug when she walked
she said Odus said that? About Miss Buena?
he said Yes the sonofabitch did you’gn axe him
but Odus guilty would not look up from the floor


she said Then I don’t blame you and Ralph said
I don’t either I heard that story before
it’s about nuns, Buena Vista she wasn’t
no goddam Catholic we was Baptists
and I won’t have Odus Millard slurrying
her memory by the connection in this town
somebody is got to stand up for Christian womern


and she said Yes I see
and she pulled Odus off the raised wall bench
and she spitwiped the dryblood and snot tears from his face
and she got both of them in her Chevrolet pickup and she drove
Odus Millard across town to their house, walked him in and shut the door
and Ralph Ragsdale a hero now in the place he called home
played out his snooker game in Bill’s Pool Parlour all alone