Western Civilization

Where will you be when Li Po comes down from the foothills looking for Keith Moon?

Western Civilization

Lucas took one of those trips
That Americans of a certain rage

 
Must take—to find themselves. In Utah
Lucas found himself marooned 

 
In the wilderness, 50 miles
From society, covered in flop sweat 

 
And Cheetos dust, perched on the roof
Of his teenaged Pinto as it neighed

 
A swan song. His cowed cell phone crowed:
Out of range, where seldom is heard 

 
A word. Should he hike back to Moab?
Should he wait for his satellite 

 
To synch or should he scream like Job
And curse the day he was born?

 
To keep awake he stared at the sun
And sneezed. After a week, he came to

 
Believe that snakelets were zagzigging
From his brain to his heart so that 

 
He felt what he thought. That was enough
To move Lucas from hood to the earth. 

 
He mimed building a fire and cooking
A can of beans. At dusk, Li Po, 

 
Came down from the foothills, looking
For Keith Moon. Lucas offered regrets 

 
And faux joe. They discussed The Who.
“’Substitute’ is their best song,” Lucas said. 

 
The poet disagreed: “‘Magic Bus’—
The version on Live at Leeds.” 

 
From the arroyo Steve-the-saguaro
Plucked his mesquite ukulele

 
As he sang, “Thank My Lucky Stars
I’m a Black Hole.” Lucas joined on

 
The chorus and Li Po shadow waltzed.
Later, over spirits, Li Po cupped 

 
His ear and whispered, “Do you hear
The hoo-hah of hoof beats? The great herd 

 
Is here to lead Old Paint to that
Better place ‘where the graceful whooper 

 
Goes gliding along like a handmaid
In a blissful dream.’ Lo siento.”

 
Then Lucas submitted to gravity.
When the highway patrol found him

 
He looked like a dried peach. They emptied
Their canteens over his face until 

 
His skin sprung back, like a Colt pistol,
To the lifelike. On the bus ride home

 
Lucas slapped himself silly, chanting:
I want it, I want it, I want it . . .
 
 
Peter Jay Shippy

 

 


a spell

 

 

Get the book

 

 

BAP 2013

 

 

Get the book

 


Poem ©2013 Peter Jay Shippy, all rights reserved. Used by permission of the author and publisher Best American Poetry 2013. Film ©2014 Motionpoems, Inc., all rights reserved.

BONUS CONTENT

SUPPORT MOTIONPOEMS