Here are three poems from Lee Busby’s forthcoming chapbook, Wild Strawberries, set to be released from Finishing Line Press in December. Lee is a friend and former VCFA classmate. His work has appeared in such journals as Fullosia Press, Poet’s Ink Review and Moon City Review among others. He writes poems that are funny, sad, smart and always honest, exploring love, loss and the margins of masculinity. They echo with the voices and images of southwestern Missouri, but his poetry is much more than regional. I think of Lee as the outsider looking in and the insider looking out, a glorious contradiction which resonates in his work.
Richard Jackson , whose translations have appeared on Numéro Cinq, described Lee’s poems this way:
“Beginning with an escape and ending “not far from anywhere,” Lee Busby moves magically, almost imperceptibly from journey to odyssey as he explores family history and larger issues of loss and redemption, always wondering, as he does when fishing with his father that things might already have “slipped, / almost, away from me.” Hiding behind a kind of folksy vision, though, is a voice that is clever, almost Horatian in its slyness, as when he says to a girl, teaching her to fish, “I’ll slide / in here behind you this time and show you / how to reel it in, nice and easy.” Indeed, it is just such a strategy that Horace would approve of, a kind of vision one would expect in the stories of Larry Brown. That Busby can pull off this delicate balance is a testament to a complex, honest vision that pulls us in with its unassuming airs only to immediately show us the falsity of our own assumptions and reveal a deep, mature vision of a life lived in endless self exploration.”
It’s a pleasure to bring Lee’s poems to Numéro Cinq. Be sure to buy the book!
Three Poems From Wild Strawberries,
by Lee Busby
I’ve cut a swatch of path through my backyard
looking for wild strawberries. They grow small
round the dogwood right up to the maple. They’re
bitter, which is understandable, being so small.
Two sparrows keep flying overhead. They’re looking
for the strawberries too, I suppose. And here’s
the hedge under the window, the only reason
I bought that Husqvarna. Which isn’t much.
The tulip tree is covered in flies again.
My neighbor keeps burning his trash right next
to my fence. Sometimes I throw a soda can
of gasoline on when he isn’t looking. He deserves
that much. I’ve found strawberries, not enough
to brag about, they lie in my hand staining
it a little. If the weather gets any cooler
it will kill my wild garden, these sunflowers
I grew because my grandmother loved sunflowers.
I throw a few strawberries up in the air, hoping
a sparrow will swoop down and snatch one up,
yet they never do, and I’m left walking the yard
to pick the strawberries back up and eat
them myself. As small as they are I still get juice,
the bitterness like copper, running down my chin.
My neighbor is cutting some wood now. He buys a rick,
already cut, stacks it in his back yard, cuts it again.
I don’t offer him any strawberries. Ever.
He would gobble them down too quickly.
I like to lie in my grass on days like this,
eating my strawberries and smelling my dirt.
I hold my red hands up when I’m finished. I like my life.
You Always Call Me from Albuquerque
You call with liquor on your breath,
say Anodyne Billiards is packed, you know no one, anymore.
…..…You say you gotta leave, you’ve got
three quarters in your pocket.
But you’re smashed between a bunch of strangers who want to buy you more drinks.
…..…And you spin, you tell me, you’ve done tricks for money.
Magic tricks, sleight of hand, they fall, easily, you love it.
So this time you do them one better, hike up your skirt, pull a dollar out of your hose.
…..…Let’s make a bet, you tell them,
my hose for your heart, better yet three bucks for the bus,
another whiskey. Except I’ll win.
…..…Sit back, don’t think too much.
I’ve got bills, no job, a sweetheart back in Missouri.
You take those high heels off and place them on the table,
…..…make a place for yourself to sit, all smiling.
So, you tell him, bring your Caddy around, put on some country music.
…..…You say you pull off your pantyhose, toss them in the trash.
You make him carry your heels out.
Green chilies. You have breakfast before you head back to the bar.
…..…This late, you think love and biscuits have something in common.
You call me again, 2 in the morning, to tell me this.
But, you point out, only 1 a.m. your time, not even last call.
…..…And who am I to judge anyways, last week I put down a pint of whiskey,
two shots of Jaeger, and took off driving.
I wanted to hear the wind and feel some Hank Williams.
…..…And that made you sadder, said I should have come to Albuquerque with you.
Since I’ve never been.
So I pull out my suitcase, throw in 3 shirts, my blue jeans. My body aches.
…..…You say goodbye to the men at the bar.
Or maybe one more drink, then,
you say if I hurry, you’ll put on jeans, a t shirt, shoes, have some coffee,
…..…stay up and wait.
One Bedroom One Bath Above Provenzano-Lanza Funeral Home, Manhattan
I’m not far from anywhere
on the corner of 2nd and 2nd.
I walk down the stairs from my apartment,
9 A.M., people are crying.
I come home at 6, sometimes 7,
people are crying.
I come walking by with my coffee
and my hat pulled low
and they stand out on the sidewalk,
blocking me going in, coming out.
They talk softly, they say “hello,”
I’ve been hugged twice,
and up in my room I can hear
Celine Dion, Dylan, Van Halen,
a sax, a violin, but never a piano.
I’m not far from heaven here,
maybe hell too, and people cry,
laugh and sing no matter who’s dead.
When it’s late sometimes I’ll lie awake
in the silence, close my eyes like death,
suddenly gone and everyone crying for me.
The next morning they are still crying for me,
and will continue to cry well into night
at the corner of 2nd and 2nd, every day and night.