He had much to say
about Texas, Texans, Mexicans,
and the cowboy way.
McMurtry, best known
for essays, books, and movie scripts
which Hollywood’s Oscar would pay.
But Larry most loved book scouting,
a proud bibliopolist,
another dying breed.
Look both ways learning about history, myth, legend, and reality.
Mind the gaps because therein may hide the best of the stories.
Larry Jeff McMurtry (1936-2021) was an American novelist, essayist, bookseller (book-scout) and screenwriter whose work was predominantly set in either the Old West or contemporary Texas. Dying breeds, historical truth, and books attracted him personally and professionally. My favorite McMurtry quotes are:
“People would be bored shitless if they had to love only the good in someone they care about.”
“Backward is just not a natural direction for Americans to look – historical ignorance remains a national characteristic.”
“Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak.”
What animal husbandry
the Gulf of Mexico Coast
Basins, and Ranges
south, rolling, and
Franklin, Chalk, Chinati,
Chisos, Christmas, and Davis;
Guadalupe, Palo Pinto,
Diablo and Vieja.
Texas is many places.
Look, “Highway 6 goes both ways” *.
Mind it all; the gaps, the plains, and the mountains.
There is not another place like Texas.
*Texas Highway 6 runs 476 miles, from the Oklahoma border to Galveston, Texas. The quote is a pejorative quip or gibe at Texas A&M University for complainers who dislike the place. It’s like don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. In other words, the same road that brought you here can take you away in two directions.
Today, my NaPoWriMo assignment is based upon an Irish poetic genre called aisling. An aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country (typically Ireland) on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it. I had the option to write a poem that recounts a vision of a woman who represents or reflects where I live: Texas.
la dama de texas
I looked, but bright sunlight and a vast blue sky
tempered my curious gaze over her vast wonderment.
She was like a kaleidoscope of diversity,
capricious changes over her sensuous body
constantly looming; inviting, yet hostile.
Her hair was a big thicket of trees:
pecan, oak, palm, cedar, and holly;
her brows were of pine, and elm above
lashes of ash and cherry, anaqua and yaupon.
Her brown skin and dark eyes testify
to her Mexican heritage, her breath was of
sweet orchid, redbud, and magnolia. Temptress,
with a capital T.
Her breasts were like mountain ranges:
Chisos, Guadalupe, Franklin, and Davis;
at her sides and hips Chinati, Boquillas,
Hueco, Christmas, and the lower Palo Pintos.
In her swaying curves the hidden canyons:
Palo Duro, Santo Elena, and Mariscal with
the jewels of caprocks, pinnacles, and hoodoos.
At her back, the Llano Estacado horizon rolled
smoothly into her Balcones Escarpment to
plateaus named for Edwards and Stockdon.
The moist whites of her eyes shown like cotton bolls,
lids like sandy beaches, her fingers like rivers:
the Pedernales, Neches, Trinity, Comal,
Brazos and the majestic and mysterious Rio Grande.
Her arms were like Devils River and the Pecos.
Her desert skin shimmered like moist sand.
I saw her holding an abundance of animals
and insects that staggered me.
The diversity of people standing in her shadow,
waving their ubiquitous flags, while protected by her,
spoke languages mixed with southern or western dialects.
Beneath her beauty, a sweetened but exaggerated history
belied the truth of a dark, slavishly embarrassing past.
An enigma with something for everyone
yet comfort for only a friendly few.
I’ll take Texas over Hell
with my eyes wide open.
She said I may stay,
but only if I see things her way. I try.
Look both ways to see the good and the bad.
Mind the gaps and accept the facts.
Everyone must be somewhere, even if they’re going nowhere.
At first, years ago
when I was a green carrot,
Texans were, it seemed,
wonderful; charming, friendly,
funny-talking folk in spurs
and special wide brim hats,
and mess on their boots;
mysterious, clever, dashing,
men, woman, and children;
lovers of prickly flora
and less flattering fauna; frank
but short of blunt, somber souls.
For forty years I lived among ‘em,
counted myself one,
raised three more,
befriended many, tolerated more;
a citizen with resident rights,
I’ve noticed fewer hold that mythical
lost in a dangerous land,
Houston in New York.
Look both ways when we pine for the past.
Enjoy the stories and the myths, but mind the gaps where rattlers sleep.
Sitting on a bench
beside this small lake
on a warm, sunny
winter March day,
in Texas, not yet Spring,
but it feels good.
A golf course
on the opposite side,
with carts silently
moving, following, stopping,
to find a ball.
Golfers swing clubs,
ride to find balls.
Some call it exercise.
I gave it up
in college. No
What is it
about the water
that calms me
and I want to
write a poem
hearing brave birds?
Soon it will be
I’ll return here,
to find calm.
A nice day, this,
in many ways.
Look both ways around the water.
There’s the natural and the not.
Mind the gaps where golfers lose their balls.
Yesterday, Morris Mac Davis (January 21, 1942 – September 29, 2020) died, as did Helen Reddy (25 October 1941 – 29 September 2020). Mac was a country music singer, songwriter, and actor, originally from Lubbock, Texas. He was one of (if not the) my wife’s favorites. I wrote this poem a few weeks ago. I kind of relate it to his song, The Words Don’t Come Easy.
Grant Me the Words
I want words to share with her,
to impress her, to draw her closer.
Are there such words? Is what I feel
a force? One that words can’t say?
Words must say what I want. This world isn’t
perfect. People have people issues,
life is life, it is all relative. Except love.
Love is not relative. Love comes in thousands
of different flavors. That love is not this love.
Each is special. Each unique. Each its own.
The pain is not the love, it is not the passion,
it is not the physical or mental human reality.
It is the inability to tell another human being
how much you love them. How much you care.
We suffer most not because we love, but because
we lack the humanity to share our words of love
with the world, because we don’t know what they are.
But we try. We must always try.
Look both ways at the good things in life, like love.
Mind the gaps for lessons and reasons. Always try.
They don’t come easy but find the words.
Thanks to Rochelle @Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple for another Friday Fictioneers inspirational photo, promulgated on Wednesday. Her weekly challenge is to write a story of 100 words or less based on the photo prompt, provided this week by J Hardy Carroll.
Title: Big Bend Kill Me, Save Me
Genre: Fiction (Texas Outdoors)
Word Count: 100
I was lost at night in the Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas. Thunderstorms flooded arroyos with torrents leading to the Rio Grande. Without overnight gear, rain soaked me. I couldn’t see as storms raged and lightning flashed.
A bolt struck near me. I felt an electrical burn run through my body. I was going to die. A nearby cactus caught fire and burned despite the rain. I crawled under a rock outcropping.
Park Rangers rescued me in the morning. Someone had seen my signal. I asked, What signal? They said, a tall pillar of yellow light pointed the way. Strange.
Look both ways and carry the ten essentials of survival.
Mind the gaps for flash floods.
March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb — not this year. It’s reversed. It started pleasant enough, but now I am cold (I think I have one, or allergies due to pollen all over), it is cold and windy outside. When I finish all my reading and writing for today, I think I’ll take a sick day. Do retired folks get those, especially on Sundays? I feel the need to heal.
I posted a few of the poems I wrote during March. In addition to the 31 for each day, I wrote about 10 others simply because one does not refuse when one’s muse presents a poem. I also managed to write a few essays, but this month my poetry muse has been more active.
Poem titles for March included:
Rock and Roll Will Never Die
Now What I Was
A Touch of Cold (maybe it was cold in early March)
The Fire Down Below (posted)
At the Beginning of the Day
There Was a Time
Why We Can’t Be Friends (I can’t love/like everyone)
Late Bloomer (that would be me)
I Might Be
Stinks (the smell, not the poem)
Hear Ye Me and Thee
The Dance (what we all want to do)
Bacon (the meat)
The Irish in Me (Must have been the 17th)
Too Much (of what?)
Losing It (crazy)
The Priest (a man I knew who died in prison)
It’s Just Me
Handwriting from the Past
Mari Zone II
Rouquin (French word)
Self Portrait as Poe
Beginning tomorrow (1 April 2019), I’ll continue to write at least one poem each day, but instead of writing to my muse’s ideas, I will write to whatever the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge prompts suggest. My source will be that website where each day’s assignments are posted around midnight. I’ll write and post the poem before giving up the day to Mister Sandman.
I expect to travel during the final days of the month, so I will be writing on the road (again—now I have Willie whining in my good ear). The world is rich with characters and topics, so I anticipate no lack of subjects (think small towns in west Texas).
Unlike my others, I feel challenged (obliged) to post these. That’s what NaPo is all about. Don’t say no pressure. Yes there is, and you know it.
As for prose, who knows?
Look both ways for opportunity and danger.
An inspiration need not be the creative juggernaut of the day.
Mind well gaps within the gaps.
This past ten days was essentially a good week, plus three days. I am healed from the previous week when I had to deal with some of Texas’ smaller critters. I’ve written about them before, but I know more now.
Picture an orchestra or big band about to play. The conductor taps a stand a few times to get everyone’s attention and raises her or his arms and the musicians get ready. The audience quiets (or should) and everyone prepares for the first blast of music when virtually every musician simultaneously begins to play. Got it? I love it when they do it like that.
Now picture me stepping into my back yard to move some things out of the way. I knew there was a fire ant den over yonder. So, I didn’t go there. I did this, that, and the other thing. I then walked up the stairs to my porch and over to the door into the house. I did not hear the conductor do the tap, tap, tap with the baton.
When fire ants sting (and they do, like fire, thus the name) they play you like an orchestra. These little beasts run out of the den/nest/hiding place and climb onto your body, shoes, up your legs and arrange themselves just lickety-split. Tap, tap, tap, arms raised, then BLAM! Everyone of those little mother-fuckers stings in unison. That’s how it works. It hurts. I had reminders on my legs and ankles for days. Apparently, they release some sort of hormone, so they all get the ‘ready-aim-fire’ call in unison.
Last night I lay in bed thinking. Have you ever been to a place where some ass-hole or group of pains-in-the-ass people annoyed the hell out of you? The theater, a restaurant, some sporting event? There are lots of fire ants. Could we harvest a few hundred and put them in a little squeeze bottle thingy? Then, when we no longer can tolerate those people, spray about 20 of our little pissed-off fire ants into some strategic area of the offender’s person: hair, neck, feet, crotch…ideas? We’d get to play conductor. Stand, tap, tap, tap, raise our arms in the air. Let the music and dancing begin.
We’ve had a lot of rain for weeks in this part of (drought or flood) Texas. But it did not rain Thursday of that week. That was when I decided it was time to get back on the rough trails for my walk. I knew the grass was about knee-high tall everywhere they don’t mow. I did not realize how much grass grows on the trails! Since it has been so wet, fewer people have been walking the grass down and they have not mowed out there. I wore long pants tight at the ankle, socks, and a long sleeved shirt.
I showered afterwards, but I woke up Friday morning with a dozen chigger bites. I used to think chiggers burrowed into your skin and stayed there. They bite, move, and bite again. Literally they eat skin (me). But they soften you up for dinner with a chemical that causes irritation and itching and lasts about a week.
I have DEET bug spray, and I know how to keep them off, but I didn’t use it. It was a cold, wet morning. I was fresh raw meat strolling through high grass looking for snakes or whatever critters might be hiding in there (ya can’t see chiggers). The hungry bugs were glad to see me. I transported chiggers on my person to my home on my body. For a week the bites mixed well with the fire ant stings for leg and ankle decorations.
The nest is still there in my yard, even though it was recently treated specifically for fire ants. I’ve ordered another kind of treatment for my clothing (permethrin) to deter the chiggers and other bugs, like ticks. I will treat clothing for trails and will apply DEET to my legs, ankles, and exposed skin. Oh, they found a mosquito with West Nile Virus on the south side. I live on the northside, but this should help with that.
I still like the idea of spraying fire ants on annoying people. Just don’t get caught.
Look both ways. Watch out for snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas.
Mind the gaps where hide the chiggers and fire ants.