Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rural Poet #2: David Lee


David Lee's locus is the southwest, a completely different kind of country and one I know well. Growing up in rural Utah and working for pig farmers, it was inevitable that Lee's first, and most well-known book was named The Porcine Legacy.

For I will consider my black sow Blackula.
For she is the servant of the god of the feed bucket and serveth him.
For she worships the god in him and the secret of his pail in her way.

from Jubilate Agno, 1975

Lee's early work is filled with the dry, cranky characters of small-town southwest, those more prone to burying guns in their backyard than performing acts of neighborly hospitality. Maybe it's something about the heat which makes them this way.

my brother thrown one at me
with a pitchfork doing hay
when I's on the wagon
and it hit me
I thought it was a kingsnake
but it was a rattler
that sonofabitch thought I'd duck
and let it go on over

from Haystacking

His later work left town for the true wilderness: dusty trails, mountain peaks, delicate trees, and great big skies. There's a peace and silence in these later poems that approach spirituality. Which makes sense. Lee says, "Language is divinity," and he uses it to find the eternal in the spaces few people go.

When granite and sandstone begin to blur
and flow, the eye rests on cool white aspen.
Strange, their seeming transparency.
How as in a sudden flash one remembers
a forgotten name, so the recollection.
Aspen.

from Parowan Canyon

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