Red Shuttleworth

Don't Be Stingy

With Your Wicked Love

She rinses the champagne glasses,
blows out a ruby-red candle…
and it’s like we’re in a coyote song
juke box saloon, the kind of place
where you put your dreams
on the table…
and you whisper, Baby,
if it weren’t for you…

Oh, feed me the moon
from Christ’s singing skull:
pewter music bounces
off the bedroom walls
as if off a red oxide mountain.


The contents of Samuel Beckett’s
Dublin-gray cowboy hat:
Indian ponies on lush sacred grass,
a blue dumpster behind a burger palace,
a miniature tavern-to-tavern preacher,
a couple of old lovers speaking
to each other from granite urns.

I am not a fan of reenactments,
but one night I found myself
drunk on the street of bear claws
attached to gold neck chains.
A trio of girls passed by
with debutante-ghost radiance.
There was a flash of memory:
your face drank sunlight…
your whiskey kisses lingered…
so I said, I’m your freight train.


Atrocity headline of the day:
Roast Leg of Child.
The guy they caught
on the Arizona-Nevada border
was a raving lunatic
with a 1970’s Brit rocker haircut.
His family said the truth
would come out…
and it did. He hated
being called Snot Quart
back in high school.

Sober and thirsty
I sat in the car,
watched butterfly catchers
beside crab creek.
They seemed exultant.
I drove home on memory.
Envy is a mad dog
lonesome emotion.


One of my neighbors,
about three miles west,
near the neglected
county’s game preserve,
runs a couple hundred
Red Angus mixed with Holstein
bottle calves and steers.
This rancher’s wife
sets a billy goat
on the back seat
of their Chrysler 300,
always waves me down
to say she’s bringing
brownies to a sister in town,
always says to me,
Ah the fury of childhood…
but we understand
ourselves better now.


Four young guys are in line in front of me at the Moses Lake Wal-Mart, three shaved-bald Mexicans and a white kid with a stringy goatee. One of the Mexicans and the white kid are in white wife-beaters. They are trying to buy a couple cases of Miller’s for Thanksgiving dinner with a credit card which obviously doesn’t belong to any of them. The clerk is a fat girl with a pink streak in her black hair. She knows them. Come on, Tiff, one of them says. Tiff scratches her ribs. The white kid looks at me and looks away. Some people say I look like someone who’d fuck you up rather permanent… totally volatile-nuts. It’s my near-blind right eye. The white kid has a lot of tattoos on his arms. Two of the three Mexicans have bad-art tattoos. I have three boxes of Milk Bone dog biscuits in my cart, plus shampoo, and a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Kate forgot to buy and needs. I am about ready to ask the four guys which one gets butt-fucked by the others… or which guy is banging the white guy’s fifteen year old sister, but Tiff rings them up on the not-yet-reported-stolen credit card, so I relax a little as they roll their cart away without
looking back. The conveyor belt moves my items toward Tiff. She glares, asks, What the fuck are you looking at? I make a smile… shrug. As Tiff totals up my stuff, her mood brightens and she asks if I’ve found everything I wanted to find. The pink against black in your hair, I say, kind of catches the holiday spirit. She smiles warily, looks at my wide-brim black cowboy hat. I say, I hope those guys give you something real sweet when Christmas rolls ‘round… like something from out of the jewelry department. Tiff is battered fat, has a few stud-pocks on her nose, but her smile is white and even. They’re assholes, she says, hands me my stuff in plastic bags to lower into a cart. Now, now… but this is the goddamned holiday season, Tiff, so don’t you think your attitude lacks kindness?


A happy pearl-colored rat…
a fidgety girl in a slim
black sheath dress…
a sleepwalker moans
as he crosses his front yard
through a veil of soft rain.

Fence posts whiz past
along a Great Plains road
somewhere northeast of Denver…
like a memory of steak and Guinness…
or smoke off old alfalfa bales
that smolder for weeks
until they remind you
of movie cemeteries.


Not far from Old Camp Casino
in Burns, Oregon,
a Swedish-Chinese girl
is singularly at an endless
and slow dance
she saw in a late night
filmed-for-Cinemax movie…
singing some Roy Orbison.
She’s slim, supple
in a tight red blouse,
short white skirt,
and scuffed black low heels.
I try to console her
and she clears her throat,
gargles out that there’s
misery in Ford 150 pick-ups.

Nida, that’s her name,
is asleep in my Mustang
in the motel parking lot
when I lug my athletic bag,
briefcase bulging with poetry books,
out of the Best Western.
You got at least a shot
of champagne left?

There’s sunrise and silky indifference
in her wide-set ashes-gray eyes.


It’s a quarter of a century
since I blew a meeting
with Beckett that Kay Boyle
arranged for me.
I have a notion Beckett
would’ve told me,
You cross the first
sinuous border
out of aspiration.
The rest you rumble over
out of desperation.

The San Francisco
serape girl’s laughter:
Don’t treat me as easy,
‘cause I ain’t.
I’m just keen to practice.

There was something like blood
and filthy water in her clogged tub.
The curtains were green velvet.
There was broken glass
under her wood-frame bed.

When I told her it was
only a letter of intro
and that Beckett
would probably be busy,
she started blinking hard.
Look, I said, stroking her hair
after we made love,
I’m no jumble prayer
poet-Jesus who turns Raman
to roast porcupine.

She hiccupped and nodded
until I walked out her door.


Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Ask about our comfort sleep guarantee.
Massage Chairs: the crowning glory of comfort!
Air conditioned family atmosphere.
You owe it to yourself to experience…
Need a lift?

Mostly I feel like a coyote
choked on baling wire.
But sometimes, baby,
on long, straight cactus roads,
we stop for clumps of love:
river rock tracks and dead ends…
shot-up road sign country.


I can’t muster pretense:
every so often
there’s thistle in my song.
I like women with gumption,
but it’s okay to settle
for sour eagerness,
a few shadows below the eyes,
a flowery dress, a grin, rosy lips
saying, I once found a plush
stuffed toad on that road
between Carlin and Eureka,
so I guess I’m kind of lucky.

Oh, yes, the road ahead plunges.
We are gathering speed.
Baby does a blue-leather
chair lean-back,
arms crossed below
sweaty breasts.
There’s marmalade-colored
Linoleum in the kitchen,
a calf on the porch with scours,
so this ain’t no matinee western.
She’s a thunderclap
pre-Raphaelite desert beauty,
my wiring, my be-all-we-were
snake oil baby, my sunshine honey,
my Texaco station white comet.
Candy wrappers, beer cartons,
and pizza boxes all windblown,
we’re ready to play out
one more last hand.