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Tom Chaney: R706: Maybe as a poem

Of Writers and Their Books No.R706: Maybe as a Poem. First published in the Hart Co. News-Herald Sunday, 9 April 2006.
The next earlier column: Willie Morris' Last Bugle

By Tom Chaney

Jesse Mountjoy, Hart County poet-in-exile in Owensboro, has provided a sheaf of poems published in The Legal Studies Forum, Volume XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006.

While that publication may seem odd for poetry, it fits right in. After all, Mountjoy is a member of the world's second oldest profession as well as a poet.

It must be a relief from the intricacies of the law of taxes where language seems designed to obscure to turn to "Calle Matamoros" where
The night drips with dreams of blue-green rain
And Rousseau's vegetation,
In the morning, with the weather confused,
I will open my journal
And describe yesterday,
Knocking these words on their small heads
(oblivious of their discomfort,
And their damaged legs and arms
Dangling from the page)
Until they rest, quiet and exhausted,
Maybe unconscious, maybe as a poem.
Mr. Mountjoy, in this slim collection, is clearly a master of the role of poet as seer - one who lends us his vision and makes it our own.

"Diary Entry - April 12, 1945" is such a poem. The occasion is a final concert in The Hall before the death of the gods as Berlin collapses. It ends thusly:
Such music! So pure and ... (what word?) ...
"Uncrippled." The craters outside are
Lamentable, but our sanctuary draped
With camouflage, is a miracle intact!
And the lights. So honest! And the
Bright children in uniform, lined along
Our way to the bomb-proof doors, offer
Us small Easter baskets with flowers,
Chocolates and a few cyanide capsules.
The poet John Ciardi would have approved of that one, for he says that to be successful, a poem must turn on itself -- to meet itself coming back. This does just that in the last line.

And we meet Gene, "the short stocky, no-necked farmhand . . . throwing cusswords like / Punches, / . . . And ready to tear off his / Tee-shirt and fight for the least of his opinions, / Even those he don't believe in."

Anyone who has farmed with what my uncle called a "one-lung SOB" will find that "Vernon's Tractor" resonates with a clang like a bell.
This hand-clutched 1953 John Deere
Model "A" is a spiteful mule
And mud turtle and a goddamned alcoholic
For gasoline. It has no moving parts.
It shivers with fortunes,
With two, maybe three angels
Sweating and cursing,
Chained in the radiator,
Making the water boil, the oil pulse.
Steering this thing makes my eyes water
And takes my breath away.
And cranking it is a visit with a fatal moment.
These are but a sample. There is more of Vernon who speaks often in haiku as in this poem not included in this collection.
Me and the wife had
Some words this morning, but I
Didn't get to use mine.
Often Jesse Mountjoy provides a limited number of copies of this issue of the The Legal Studies Forum to be sold at The Bookstore with all proceeds going to Kentucky Repertory Theatre. Check with Tom Chaney for current availability. Come by in person with the prospect of saving the postage or call (270) 786-3084 or email

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749 (270) 7

This story was posted on 2011-04-10 06:24:22
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