'64 Suicide Lincoln, poem by RJ Looney

Dad­dy came home from work
one Wednes­day in July at 2 pm
smelling like beer
not talk­ing to anybody
after that he didn't stray too far away
spend­ing most of what would be his last year
in Mam-maw's old trac­tor shed
play­ing a Peavey Strat copy
through a beat up match­ing amp
he'd picked up at Pancho's Pawn & Loan

We could tell when he was on the Yellowstone
amp cranked up to 11
the neigh­bors up the hill
would raise hell at us on the party-line
to make him stop

August was hot as a malar­ia fever
and he wrote a whole catalog
of songs that didn't rhyme
with mean-sound­ing titles like

Burn Up World

'64 Sui­cide Lin­coln and

Mur­der­ous Bible

When Octo­ber rolled around
he took Uncle Junior's car trailer
to the junk­yard and returned with ten car fenders
most­ly GM products

Novem­ber afternoons
were spent in Old Milwaukee
with the lit­tle Sav­age bolt-action .22
shoot­ing them full of holes
or ping­ing in thumb-sized dents
with a 2 lb. ball peen hammer
oth­er times work­ing them over
with pit­ted leather work boots or gloved fists

In the gray of winter
he set to practicing
the trade he'd learned
at 17 in reformatory
skills acquired as payment
for a well placed
and equal­ly deserved shovel
deliv­ered to the face of his own Daddy
to sober him up
the patched met­al fenders
once again smooth as glass
primed and beg­ging to shine
with paint he couldn't afford

St. Patrick's Day
called to the neigh­bors up the hill
to light out for NOLA
so Dad­dy lib­er­at­ed some 20 odd gallons
of John Deere green from their shop
and sprayed his fend­ers with it
sus­pend­ed from the trac­tor shed rafters
like orna­ments on a brown Christ­mas Tree

I came home from a party
Sun­day morn­ing after he'd fin­ished them
still drunk on malt wine
and saw the light from the shed
a cold north wind
banged the open dou­ble doors around
those old fend­ers bumped each other
like bleached out cow bones
mak­ing hol­low thump­ing sounds
scratch­ing away their new coat­ing of stolen love
He was slumped down in a chair fac­ing them
one spent .22 shell on the con­crete floor
a blue dot between his eyes
flow­ing crim­son into open coveralls

We nev­er took the fend­ers down
and on days when I know
the wind is just right
I'll dri­ve out there
open up the doors and play
Daddy's two chord angry songs
through that fuzzy old amp
behind the hol­low bony beat
of his memory

RJ Looney has lived all but eight months of his life in Arkansas.  His poet­ry has been pub­lished both in print and online, most recent­ly in Pigeon­bike: Beyond the Bro­ken Bridge, Salt Zine, The Dead Mule School of South­ern Lit­er­a­ture, and Thun­der Sand­wich.

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