Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tattooed Poets Project: Jeff Simpson

Today's poem comes to us from Jeff Simpson:


This is the night of the living dead or the morning after,

which I always imagine as a hangover

of restless souls, human and zombie alike, converging

to maim each other in the spirit

of fellowship, but today we've come here for the brisket

and potato salad

and the moonshine, which threatens to melt the two-liter

Mountain Dew bottle into an emerald

puddle while a group of third cousins tune guitars,

fiddles, dobros, an electric bass,

before singing songs about the heartland and their collective

achy breaky hearts.

And so we’ll huddle up because we are bound by blood,

or so the story goes. Year after year

we come here to catch up on the latest weather reports,

obituaries, the pitiful retelling

of Uncle Ed’s death, a man who, as far as I can tell, was never

anybody’s uncle, tales of triumphant

poker games or the purchasing of a new Lincoln, fables

with plots that remind me

of a pulp novel I once found at a truck stop in Tucumcari:

Trailer Park Trash,

a tale of two people whose “love was as mobile as their home.”

Mobile love and mobile people

who once migrated from Mobile, Alabama to the southern

plains of Oklahoma

to work the oil fields and multiply, and now there are kids

running around the room I’ve never seen,

bodies floating to and fro inside the Seminole Convention

Center next to the Jimmy Austin

Golf Course where men in polo shirts are teeing off

on the eleventh hole,

dreaming of the nineteenth, bourbon and cigars for everyone,

while workers from the Department

of Corrections operate heavy machinery, pluck crab grass

from velvety greens.

What is this fascination with all the little cells of the world—

family reunions, class reunions,

Sting and The Police reuniting for one last performance

of “Roxanne”?

What is this love for folding chairs and vinyl tablecloths,

for supreme carrot cake,

for bullet holes and war stories, for rumors of illnesses,

stints in rehab,

for knowing at what age I can expect to develop Parkinson’s?

The band revs up.

The music bears us as we bear the music, as we lay witness

to tradition and ceremony

and rituals, the way Cherokee women wear their hair long

until the death of a loved one,

then out come the scissors; the way small town citizenry

fill the stands on homecoming

adorned with war paint and gold bells; the way peaceniks

and students poured into Altamont

in ’69 to watch Mick Jagger, all snarl and swagger,

sing “Gimme Shelter”

to a swirling mob of Hells Angels so they could feel like they

belonged to one great human tribe.

And I’ll admit I’m partial to concerts and bikers

and leather jackets,

just as I’m partial to all these people who have my mother’s

eyes and possess a genealogy

of patchwork quilts, some bearing the name of every first-born

son because we’re a family

of male heirs, because we’re phallocentric, because the band

plays on as I sit forking my carrot

cake and drinking my coffee before it goes cold, before I start

to forget the names.

Head over to Tattoosday to see Jeff's tattoo here.

Born and raised in southwest Oklahoma, Jeff Simpson received his MFA from Oklahoma State University in 2009. He is the founder and managing editor of The Fiddleback, an online arts & literature journal that will launch its first issue later this year. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Copper Nickel, Harpur Palate, The Pinch, and H_NGM_N. His first full-length collection, Vertical Hold, will be published by Steel Toe Books in 2011.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great, Jeff. Really enjoyed it. Can't wait for your book to come out.

Angie B