Monday, June 4, 2012

Meter Monday: David E. Thomas

When I first moved to Missoula, MT there were a few places I liked because they felt familiar. One place was The Oxford Cafe. You walked in and poker was played by men in driver caps and cowboy hats to your left. The long bar to your right went back past the pool players and the 2 a.m. drunks siting at the tables in the dining area. Another bar stretched in front of the grill where greasy wonderful food was cooked in front of you. This was where I went to eat cheese fries after drinking too much with new found friends. It reminded me of The Royal James bar in Beaufort, NC where I'd eat cheese fries after drinking too much with the news paper crew. There, I'd sit at the bar after putting money in the juke box and watch the pool players in drivers caps and cowboy hats.

Missoula had a lot of free events I liked going to when I first moved. My favorite was the poetry and prose readings at Shakespeare & Co. Book Store, a book store on the ground floor of my apartment building. One day I ran into a neighbor who told me another neighbor, Dave Thomas, was reading from his newest book of poetry, "Waterworks Hill", that night. Since I'd moved into the apartment building I'd seen Mr. Thomas, Dave, walking to the library during the day and sitting in a bar called Charlie B's, sipping a beer at night. I'd also seen him cleaning the four community bathrooms in the apartment building. He reminded me of my uncles Drake and Butch who lived in Easton, Maryland. They all had huge beards.

I went to the reading that night. The poems felt honest and dirty like I'd been working in the mountains all day and bathed in the river running through town that night. The people he wrote about felt familiar like I'd had a drink with them back home. He wrote about a Missoula I'd come too late to know but could picture through his words. Today I bought a book of his poetry called "Buck's Last Wreck". I found a poem about The Oxford Cafe.

Historical Eggs In The Oxford Cafe

There was a time
     when women
would enter
on a dare
     a sorority gal's
meat and potatoes
     a greasy grill
bleary faces move
well lit smoke
wooden counter chairs
with decades of hungry

a freshman
from the University
     across the river
sips under age
1966 beer
a brand new deck
of cards flies
at a time
a green felt table top
the dealer's shade
a row of chairs
against the back
tired flesh
a fading pension
spongy winos
the shoeshine boy
     snaps his rag
     all the way
to Mexico
and the walls come
down the card game
and multiply
a beehive hair-do
a cold foamy
on a bloated red
two fuzzy eyes
believe themselves
Mike Mansfield
thru in an old
suit greeting
gnarld ballot box
a divorcee
with two grandkids
"stretch one!"
from a printed card
second hand stretch
bend to soapy dishes
the keno girl's
shines like a neon
and a greyhound bus

ten thousand miles
a remodeld counter
what happened
to the cranky
old boys
who knew what
               the menu

                         6 June 1979 Missoula

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