Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

Have any of y’all ever been to a poetry readin‘? I went to one awhile back.

Why, you may ask, would a person like me, uncouth and unsophisticated, go to somethin’ as highbrow as a poetry readin’?

There are two reasons. First, I like poetry and second, some of my friends wanted to go, and they asked me to go along for laughs. No, I don’t sit around under trees reading poems out loud to the flowers and animals and such. I just like a good poem.

Now, what is considered good to one person is not necessarily another’s cup of tea. What I consider a good poem is simple. It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it rhymes.

I know that’s goin’ to shock all of you “smarter than me” people out there, but I want that sucker to rhyme. My teachers all told me that it doesn’t have to rhyme to be poetry, but man, some of that stuff just leaves me hangin’.

Also, if I have to search for a hidden meanin’ in someone’s poem, then you can keep it. I’ve never considered myself an intellectual, and I don’t want to sit around with a bunch of them discussin’ the true meanin’ of someone’s work.

Next, I would rather a poem be funny or at least fun. Oh, I know there are some serious ones that are good. Heck, I’ve even written a few of those myself, but I’d rather read or write those that are entertainin’. Most of the ones I really like are written by people like me, just plain folks.

I didn’t become interested in poetry myself until I was in high school, and that was because of a girl. Back then, it seems like everything I did was because of girls.

I was in love with a girl I had seen several times at a burger joint I frequented. She was a hippie. Her name was Sunshine and she was gorgeous. She wore her hair straight, had on love beads and wore the loudest bell-bottomed pants you’ve ever seen.

But when she walked by me, ahhhh, she was poetry in motion. Of course, she didn’t even know I existed, but that didn’t deter me. I used my best technique to get her attention. I stared at her. When she’d look at me, I’d smile and try to raise one eyebrow.

I never quite got the hang of that because the other eyebrow would go up too, just a little slower than the first. It made my face look like it was doin’ the wave. But it worked, it got her attention.

She stood up and walked up to me. “Quit making faces at me,” she said and turned away.

“Uh” I uhhed. “Wait, don’t go, yet. Uh, I hear you like poems.” This stopped her in her tracks. She turned around.

“That’s right,” she smiled. “How did you know?”

“Oh, heh, heh,” I said. “I’ve asked around about you.”

“How sweet,” she said. “Do you like poems?”

“Who me? Heck . I write them all the time.”

“Tell me one,” she said.

“Uh,” I stammered. “Well, uh, it’s sorta like, uh, you know, uh…”

“Oh,” she smiled. “Shy huh?”

“Yeah!” I said. “That’s it. I’m shy. I’m real shy. In fact, I’m so shy that after I write a poem, I throw it away.”

“Oooo,” she said. “That’s so cool.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s me. Cool, but shy.”

“Hey,” she said. Would you like to go to a reading with me?”

“You bet,” I replied. “Uh, what’s a readin’?”

“Well a group of us get together at the coffee house and read our poems.”

“Well,” I said. “I don’t know.”

“Oh, you don’t have to read any of yours if you don’t want to,” she said.

“In that case, sure, I’ll go.”

“Good,” she said. “Hey listen, I’ve got a friend and she needs a date. You don’t happen to know anybody that would go with her, do you?”

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’ve got just the person.”

“Moonbeam?” said my cousin Coy. “You want me to go out with a girl named Moonbeam? What kind of name is that?”

“Hey man, she’s good lookin’. She looks like Cher.”

“No kiddin’?”

“No kiddin’.”

“OK, I’ll go,” said Coy. “But, you better not be lyin’.”

“Who, me?”

Coy and I drove up to the address Sunshine had given us. It was an old run down café with a sign that read, The Beat. In front was parked a variety of vehicles, from Volkswagens to an old psychedelic school bus.

“Man,” said Coy. “Are you sure about this?”

“Trust me,” I assured him.

“Yeah, right.”

We walked into the dimly lit café. It was filled with beatnik lookin’ people and hippies. We stumbled around tryin’ to find our dates.

“Can I help you?” came a voice from behind. We turned around. There stood a girl dressed in black with coal black hair, pale white skin, and real dark eye shadow. She was starin’ at us.

“Aaauuuggghhh!” we yelled and jumped back.

“Oh, heh heh,” I said and swallowed hard. “Sorry about that. We were lookin’ for our dates.”

She looked us up and down.

“In here?” she asked.

“Rusty!” someone yelled. “Over here!”

I squinted my eyes and saw Sunshine and her friend at a small table near a stage. Coy saw them, too. He grabbed my arm.

“Which one’s mine?” he asked.

“The one with the dark hair,” I replied.

“I thought you said she looked like Cher. She looks more like Sonny.”

“Well, I never could keep those two straight.”

We worked our way over to the table and I made the introductions.

“Coy,” said Moonbeam. “That name sounds, so desperate.”

“Really,” said Coy, and he looked at me harshly.

“Boy,” I said to Sunshine, tryin’ to change the subject. “There’s a bunch of weird people in here, huh?”

She looked at me, sort of confused. “Where?” she said. I looked around and thought to myself, “Everywhere.”

Then a wormy lookin’ guy walked up on stage. He looked out over the crowd and the place fell silent. He started sayin’ stuff about brains, flowers and death, with a “Hey Man” and “Dude” thrown in for good measure. When he finished, he stepped back. Everybody in the place started snappin’ their fingers.

“What a beautiful poem,” said Moonbeam.

“Poem?” said Coy. “You call that a poem? Heck, even I could make up a better poem than that.”

“You’re a poet?” asked Moonbeam. “Like wow, a poet, and with a name like Coy. Wow.” Coy looked at me. He was not smilin’.

“Do one,” said Sunshine. “Do a poem for us.”

“Yes Coy,” I smiled. “Please, do one for us.”

Coy looked at me with murder in his eyes. Then he got an evil grin on his face.

“OK,” he said, and he stood and walked to the stage. This was goin’ to be good.

He cleared his throat and began. “Roses are red,” he started. “Violets are black.” Then he looked directly at me. “You’d look better with a knife in your back.” Then he smiled. I didn’t.

The place went wild. They were snappin’ like crazy. I looked around. These people, or whatever you would call them, were ecstatic. They came up and started shakin’ Coy’s hand. They were tellin’ him how wonderful he was and all. And Coy was eatin’ it all up. It was sickenin’. Then Sunshine leaned over to me.

“Uh, Rusty” she said. “Do you think you could fix me up with your cousin? I think he and I have more in common. Anyway,” she continued. “I think Moonbeam likes you better.” I looked at Moonbeam. She smiled.

“Rusty,” said Moonbeam. “That name sounds so desperate.”

“Lady,” I said. “You have no idea.”

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.