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



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BAP 2013



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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.