The Last Folk Singer
The last folk singer steps out onto the stage.
He carries his guitar and an old banjo.
They say he learned to sing from a
Jew in Kansas City but I know for a fact
he learned while in prison in the State of Utah.
They don’t call him a folk singer because
of his broken teeth. They don’t praise his looks
or his buckskin jacket. The last folk singer can barely walk,
and when he talks you can see his stained teeth. His voice
stands out and so does his ugly nose. But when he sings,
he makes grown men and women cry. They bawl.
When the last folk singer was young, the ladies held their breath.
He’d just wink and they’d fall out, as their friends screamed
and carried on, begging for more. He looks a hell of a lot like Pete Seeger,
but has had white hair from 30. He looks a little like Johnny Winter
and a whole lot like Andy Warhol.
People can remember him so well from when he was young.
He had long hair and never wore a shirt. They say he got his tattoos
while in state prison and he was sent there for stabbing his sister.
He croons and strums, hollers and cries; he plays his guitar real loud;
then he’ll get mad and storm out over nothing.
Furry Lewis who hailed from Memphis was said to have been
a friend but not his neighbor B. B. King, who didn’t like him one bit.
Rumor had it he came from Alabama, but Furry swore
he was born in a shit hole somewhere south of Jackson.
The happiest time of his life was the summer his tomatoes grew
the size of his wife’s favorite dinner plates. They were gigantic
and he took them with him to church in a basket to give away.
This went on for what seemed like forever, and he never forgot it.
The rest of the garden was fine, but when he thinks of those tomatoes he smiles.
The last folk singer began to lose his balance. His body began
to fail. At last, they wheeled him out in a special chair, a golden
throne on casters. He sat through most of his songs, but he always
stood for the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
The last folk singer hasn’t long to live. He’s given away most of his prized
possessions, including his Stetson and his Gibson guitar. Last week he sold me
his red boots and his silver buckle. He’s down on his luck. As he lay dying,
his manager, Burt Cole, waited for his final words. Even the doctor leaned in
and everyone hushed: “I never sing about nothing I didn’t know;
I never sing about love.”
An idle tree wants cutting down.
If we apply the rules of thermo-
dynamics, growing radishes in one’s
back yard makes no sense. Let
it be raspberries on prickly bushes,
not dirty little roots in the ground.
This is a treatise on good sense.
Like Swift’s argument in favor of eating
children, mine is a defense of watching
too much TV. Let’s distribute footballs
to the redskins; let’s send the whites back
I once knew a fat chick named
Trish whose boyfriend knocked all
my teeth out. My braces held them
in place as the blood ran out of my mouth.
Even at 16, young men in the South
fight over women’s breasts; only in my
day, we called them tits.
Peaches bruise easily in the heat.
I wouldn’t leave the pool gate open
at mid-summer. The neighbors might
walk in on an afternoon orgy. One
forfeits one’s right to privacy when
one makes oneself available.
I wouldn’t advise working for a company
that withholds anything, least of all
one’s lunch money.
Pecan pie is overrated, like a lot of
Southern dishes. Half of sales go
to tourists who haven’t a clue.
They’d buy a bottle of molasses
with a ribbon tied around its neck.
Hell, they’d go down on a dick painted
red. Most tourists are out and out liars,
like first-time home buyers and
The squealing never stops.
There’s a lot of commotion.
Our President’s been caught with his pants
down; our priests have stopped smoking.
My best friend built a yurt with a marble floor
and a padded cell for throwing tantrums.
The transformation is now complete.
The destroyers are triumphant; the victims,
silent; and the observers, transfixed. Is it
time for advancement or retreat?
I’d say, where are the people of color?
That’s always the question; or that’s the always
Rose bushes will snag. They’ll catch if you don’t
watch it. It’s not just your stockings that’ll run.
Roses draw blood. I’d get to work, and while
you’re at it, prune the damned bird of paradise.
After that, you can head for the basement.
When all the work is done, you can lay your
head down in the oven.
Different strokes for different folks;
we are all part of this tale.
For reasons that cannot be easily
explained, this author is distraught.
17,000 Union and 11, 600 Confederate soldiers died on this site.
They fought at dawn in the rain.
There’s a monument for the Generals in the local town but none for the soldiers.
Now they want to take the monuments down.
They can have the monuments for all I care.
Just don’t cut down the trees.
Then men were so hungry they gnawed the bark.
To this day you can see their marks.
Men relieved themselves where they stood.
They couldn’t bathe.
Best friends committed mercy killings and then killed themselves.
There is nothing natural about war.
The calm here clears along with the fog.
Look carefully and you can see the blood.
Grown men cried and hid their faces.
Men said goodbye in the dark.
They say now they fought for nothing.
They say now they were vain.
They say now they were racists.
They say now they were weak.
It may be true; maybe not.
Cousin Verne, though, was no chump.
At 6’3” with feet size twelve, he was a strapping lad.
He didn’t die to protect slavery.
Verne fought alongside his dear cousin, Al.
His mother asked him to tag along, that’s all.
Verne had poor eyes but could throw a knife.
He couldn’t eat for a week when Al got killed.
This land here is a pretty sight, I’ll say that.
If I were a deer, I’d be happy here.
If I were a rabbit, I would make a family.
As I’m only a man, I’m content to look on.
Bio: David Lohrey grew up in Memphis. He graduated from U.C., Berkeley. His plays have appeared in the UK, Switzerland, Croatia and, most recently, in Estonia. They are available online at Proplay (CA). His poetry can be found internationally in Softblow (Shanghai), Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine (The Hague) and Otoliths (Australia). In the US, recent poems have appeared in Apogee, Abstract Magazine and Poetry Circle. Several have been anthologized by the University of Alabama (Dewpoint), Illinois State University (Obsidian) and Michigan State University (The Offbeat). His fiction can be read in Dodging the Rain and Literally Stories. His study of 20th century literature, ‘The Other Is Oneself‘, was published last year in Germany. Machiavelli’s Backyard, David’s first collection of poetry, appeared in August, 2017. David is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective. He lives in Tokyo.
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