Liz’s Weekend Poetry Series: Judy Blunt

by lizard

I’m going to feature poems this month about the mess of human relationships. I hesitate to use the term “love poems” because love may not always be present, even if the word “love” is used, especially with this weekend’s selection.

The poem below the fold comes from Judy Blunt, creative writing director at that tree hugger school here in Missoula. I may consider the administrative leadership at UM to be a bunch of tone-deaf idiots prioritizing the promotion of burning bio-mass over investigating alleged rapes, but I do respect the creative writing program that continues to draw very talented professors and adjuncts.

Judy Blunt’s star really shot up after her collection of personal essays, Breaking Clean, was published by Knopf in 2002. But though Judy is now more well known for her non-fiction, she proves to be a versatile writer very capable of writing great poems.

The poem I’ve selected comes from a book titled Not Quite Stone, released two decades ago, in 1992, when Judy won the Merriam-Frontier Award. As a dogged hunter of poetry books, I was lucky to stumble across this signed copy (1 of 400 published).

It’s a poem that, two decades later, is still terribly applicable. Read it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.


At the Stockman Bar, Where the Men Fall
in Love, and the Women Just Fall

Black Velvet shots and water back,
I tell the creep who tries one sleazy
hand on my ass, but I’ll buy my own—
tougher than hammered owl shit fella,
that’s me, and he says he hears a Real
Woman calling for him somewhere
down the bar. The shot glass wobbles
in my fingers until I’m safe
at my own back table, transparent
in the crowd. By now they’re paired off
and packed to static frenzy, stomping
boots and upraised arms fanning high
clouds of smoke against the ceiling,
foam and ice cubes slung around, so
damn much fun. The lead man’s singing
Crackers in Her Cleavage, a love song
I think, and one girl Gets Down Bad,
her own long hair in her mouth,
dancing like a dog shakes a rat.

The man she’s with already has his
shirt off, and he whips it over
their heads so hard the pearl snaps
crack and pop like fingers will, but
louder. I look away when Creep
walks by and prods my astray. Blow
ten bucks on perfume then waste it
with a ten-cent cigarette, he says,
says he could teach me a few things.
I waltz with someone like my dad,
then grab my coat and find my way
outside, the pull of booze and music
dragging stars down too low and hot
to wish on, lifting the street up
to meet my heels. I smell it first,
Limburger cheese, then see the car
festooned with toilet paper and stupid
shaving cream words that don’t make sense.
Balloons bob and weave from the back
bumper, caught like a bride’s boquet.

I could take them all, but I pick
a blue one, break its string, and let it
rise over the street lights, balanced
on the breeze and fat with half-notes
from the Cracker Song, playing somewhere
for the third time, but I hear
Moon River and Bad Moon Rising,
or Once in a Blue Moon and laugh
straight up as far as I can see,
stepping back to watch it,
until something hard jams me down—
a fist, a fence—it doesn’t
really matter. I can wedge my mouth
against the chain links and scream
at the couples grinding against
their car doors, but after midnight,
we all need help. The dirt is cold.
The clearest things I see are light-years
away. I can find the Seven Sisters but
I know they’re just a part of Taurus,
I know these things. I know so many
useless things, like blood looks black
in the moonlight, and hanging on
the wire I think, I’m only one
more person, and it’s only one
hour into Sunday, and I think
if that balloon doesn’t come back
right now, and show me how it’s done,
I’ll never make it out. By God,
I’ll never find my way again.

—Judy Blunt

  1. petetalbot

    You’re turning me into a poetry lover, liz. Scary. Maybe I’m finally getting sensitive in my old age. I’ll have to search for some more of Blunt’s work — that one was great.

  2. JW Anderson

    This great work makes me wonder if Ms. Blunt is aquainted with another great Missoula poet and good friend Dave Thomas

  1. 1 An April Feast Of Poetry « 4&20 blackbirds

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