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Past Fiddle Creek




Spit & Vinegar Publications


Shakespir Edition

© Copyright 2017 RC Monson
All rights reserved.

Cover art by Livewire Productions
Cover photo by William Wallace, Sr.



Sudden Vision of Louisa

Ella’s Umbrella

A Blooming Codependency

When Gravity Wins

On Klamath Lake

The Only Truth

Orlando Begat Robert Who Then Begat Me

Banker on Your Back

Haiku Postcards

Corrida de Gallo

Noelle’s Pastels

My Heart Is a Child

Passion’s Circus

Long Division

Past Fiddle Creek


Sudden Vision of Louisa

In a waking dream I envision

a beautiful young girl in the garden,

standing way off in the distance, two generations away,

this would be long before my mother

was a twinkle in your eye.


I picture you embroidering a garden

of asters, geraniums and my Uncle Fred,

violets and Vicki

and jonquils and Josie,

Eva and Louie bundling up bouquets

of tulips and marigolds and Archie, Terri, Al and Art,

the twins tumbling among honeysuckle and baby’s breath,

to say nothing of three children who died,

your bitterroot and bleeding heart-


so much suffering and grief

make smiling come a little more easily

than when you and Grandpa stood for the portrait,

the only photo I know of that depicts you as a girl-


in black and white you seem so stiff,

all spruced up in your Sunday best,

you look so serious and solemn,

so modest and humble,

and so camera shy that I’d swear you honestly believe

the camera might steal your pious soul away.


Not so in my vision.

I watch your busy hands

accompanied by the soft humming of a favorite ballad

embellished with that sparking smile of yours

brightening up everyone’s day

by adding a note of quiet optimism and calm unwavering faith.


Grandma, your flowers bloomed all year around,

they sprouted like icons, candles and whispered prayers,

like mountains of laundry to wash, hang out on the line

and then iron,

like mounds of Christmas wrapping paper

piled high beside the glistering tree,

like heaping stacks of tortillas

warming in a hand-embroidered towel-


I lost track of the cousin count at thirty-three

when I left home and my hometown and you,

but I still cover myself on cold nights

with the blanket you made of suit-fabric squares

from Grandpa’s old sample books;

I carry with me the sense of your firm gentle hand,

the gladdening cheer of your voice;


I compare the mouth-watering aromas of your kitchen

to every kitchen I ever set foot in;

and when I start feeling a tad melancholy

I just remember trying to decipher your crazy Spanglish,

I picture you and all of your daughters laughing,

spinning yarns,

embroidering a garden of happy children.


Ella’s Umbrella

The coffee shop and I have been sitting

a long time in the searing sun.

Plastic chairs and tables, like wax cartoons,

gaze up into a blinding white glare.

Vulnerable, I look straight into the spot

that would make me blink, make my eyes

water, if not for the makeshift umbrella

of Ella’s statuesque form.

Like a study in chiaroscuro spiritual

chanting riddles of second-hand

boutiques and art galleries.

Age-old hymns sprout new growth

and cultivate shadows

along the corridor of Ella’s umbrella.

Without rattling the garden gates

the seemly impala dashes away

from a jigsaw body politic

of law-abiding citizens, mesmerized

by a flashing glare of desert mirage.

Perfumed with thoughtful laughter,

her lips are succulent as a shady oasis.


A Blooming Codependency

She lives in a house with bad plumbing,

slip-shod wiring and a leaky roof;

she’s not as young as she used to be,

and the car breaks down on the way to market.


Pulling over to offer assistance,

he already has grease under his fingernails,

and it just so happens that he always carries

a tool kit with him everywhere he goes.


She wrings her hands and cries, “It just died.”

So he pops open the hood and takes a look inside.

She leans in and he glimpses her cleavage,

which doesn’t bother her as long a the car gets fixed.


After fiddling with her distributor awhile,

he hollers, “Fire it up,” and that makes her

wonder if he’d like for her to fire him up a bit.

The car doesn’t start but her motor’s humming.


He tells her, “The coil needs to be replaced.”

She says she’d better call for a tow truck.

But when he offers to fix the car and drive her home

she instantly accepts his kind offer.


She asks if he’s sure he can fix it.

He laughs and tells he can fix anything.

She asks how much he charges for his services.

He says, “I charge plenty. If I charge at all.”


She asks if he’ll do it “in exchange for,

oh say, ten wholesome home-cooked dinners?”

He assures her he’s been a bachelor so long

he’ll do practically anything for home-cooked meals.


He installs the coil and she feeds him dinner.

They drink too much wine and when he notices

everything in her house is broken, he asks,

“How can you live in such a nonfunctional space?”


She says she has always lived in this house,

her self-image has been formulated in this place.

“With the right incentive,” he declares, “I can fix it,”

reminding her that he always keeps a tool kit handy.


Laying new foundations is easy as foreplay.

He nails in a long stud to hold her ceiling up

then takes a poke at the faulty plumbing, showing

off how adept he is with a big monkey wrench.


Rusty old pipes are torn out and replaced,

and her smile gleams like brand-new bathroom fixtures

as he unfurls great lengths of insulated wire

destined to alter the way she turns her lights on.


When at last he starts flipping switches,

her face glows with a sort of luminous ecstasy.

They curl up together beside her cozy hearth,

scarcely noticing the weeks turn to months and then years.


In time they rebuild the whole place, piece by piece,

and she is amazed at how deep a coat of paint can go.

It makes her feel good to have a handyman around,

regardless of his dirty fingernails and stinky boots.


When Gravity Wins

It started with a big


a genesis of emotion.

I kissed her.

Radiant as the night sky

in my telescope,

Estelle was just too kissable

for a schoolboy to resist.

I kissed her on the playground.

We still had our baby teeth,

and boy was I surprised

by what I’d done, and so was she.

We were dazzled,

baffled by the attraction.

We struggled against gravity

but in the end we were repelled.


A few years later

I held hands with Sandy,

skipping down the sidewalk

into the mid-1960s.

Like an aging red giant,

too dense to further expand,

the Cold War sent home

daily body counts from Vietnam,

assassination reigned supreme,

angry mobs jammed the streets,

cities went up in flames,

while rockets went up in glory

and men landed on the moon.

Dr. Leary turned on LSD

and the Pope banned the Pill,

my draft card got burned

and so did Diane’s bra.


Somewhere far away

in some distant galaxy

a swollen star collapses

into a single point,

super nova, surrounded

by a smoke-ring halo

known in my universe

as Angela’s nebula.

Change may be

fundamental to the cosmos,

but it shudders from within

and makes it hard to measure

the curve of my universe.

In a flash the star expires.

Gravity wins.


Too many radiant

ravishing beauties to remember

all at once,

and I loved each one, each in her own way.

And I’m still just as baffled

and I’m still just as dazzled

when I look through my telescope

and there’s the one

I lived with for ten years.

I think I know her well, yet I

can only explain her hows and whys

in terms of a pulsar,

smooth and firm and pulsing,

spinning out some cryptic tune

concerning heavy dark matter

and the end of time and space.

Gravity wins.


Alone at my telescope now,

the center of my universe

dances a deadly orbit round

an invisible black hole,

where everything’s torn to bits,

subatomic particles,

and then nothing,

and then less than nothing,


like what’s her name,

the one with starry eyes

and the gentle manner

of a Klingon warrior woman.

O blissful whirlwind

of compulsive self-destruction,

where will you take me next?


Somewhere off in the distant night

a star explodes and in a swirl

carbon and oxygen and iron race

toward some vast unknown potential,

roiling and moiling with mystery

that summons me

into a dark interstellar medium,

somewhere on the outskirts

of my ever-expanding universe,

where sirens sing a quasar song

and infant stars are born.


On Klamath Lake

A feverish dream starts to freeze,

first along the snow-crusted shoreline

then spreading contoured ribs

into the soft, steaming middle,

and what makes it so bright and cold

crystalizes into the severe opaque

of the wintertime of her affections


I realize she’s not finished punishing,

and I’m beginning to numb

against frostbitten waves of aversion,

for this is the moment of transition,

an instant charged with silver auras

when I no longer give a damn

and the hurting drifts off like frosted breath


I’m in a rowboat without any oars,

way out on this enormous body of water,

and the fish are flying overhead

and the birds are swimming down below.

I can barely see her on the distant shore,

a tiny hourglass, cracked and spewing out

the molten sands of an avid nemesis


The frigid air, harsh and dry as wisdom,

makes me ache just a tad, down deep,

as if I’m experiencing nothing more

than the later stage of growing pains,

and what vague little sense it all makes

seems to be more than enough

salmon eggs at the heart of the matter


The Only Truth

I breathe in sky and give it back

to plants that process sunlight into sugar.

Oxygen factories bloom springtime buds.

My nose whiffs in the pungent scents,

and crisp exuberant green

is the only truth

my body really knows.


Summertime highs pressure surge.

Arroyos rechart the course of flash floods.

Dust devils whirl round weeds atumble.

Sand dunes turn to glass as I erupt,

and red-hot raging fury

is the only truth

my body really knows.


Inky clouds blot out all heavenly hope.

In the graveyard, death’s doorsteps

line up like granite welcome mats.

Cool autumn rain mingles with warm tears,

and harsh blue darkness

is the only truth

my body really knows.


Snowdrifts gleam in frigid moonlight.

Cold drafts penetrate the walls,

but you snuggle up close, tell a good joke.

The hearth is warm, the fire crackling,

and ember-glow orange

is the only truth

my body really knows.


Orlando Begat Robert Who Then Begat Me

Faint smells of vomit and urine

Cigarette smoke and a legacy of sick-sweet perfume

I sit in a tawdry honky-tonk

Two-steppers deftly glide by

They remind me of my father

Quite a dancer in his time

He had a penchant for crying in his beer

And subsequently drank himself to death

At age fifty-three

But not you, Ole

Orlando Isadore Monson

You out-lived your only son

More than ten years

And you never let on

At Dad’s funeral you said

“It’s a good life if you don’t weaken”


I came away wondering

If you thought I was him

And now, I wonder still

I’ve heard the tales of your punch-drunk exploits

The singing, the dancing, the stories

All thick with Norwegian yodel

The old Plymouth that could find its own way home

Even your ugliest vices possessed

A simple, old-fashioned charm

Dark horse, rebel of a bygone era,

Your insatiable zeal for life made us think

You were too stubborn, too mean to die

Shot glass still wet on my whiskey lips

Hot-bellied afterglow of poisonous euphoria

Hot smoke further enhances the numbing effect

Country minstrels butcher another sad ballad

Shaded figures dance in a Day of the Dead parade

Each new death, a resurrection of past deaths


I remember the night you barged into the bathroom

Presumably unaware of my presence

There between you and your intended target

I stood shivering, mid-piss, terror stricken

My child’s eyes gazed up as you proceeded to

Blubber and fart and take a leak in the sink

Dreaming about the Catholic girl you married

How you got yourself disowned by the family

Lumber-jacking, building your own houses

Snooker at the tavern you owned in the thirties

And all the loopy Nez Perce squaws you fucked

Near my table, draped over a handrail

The mop-up towel hangs on

Like a stumbling lush trying to regain balance

Nagging pain behind one eye

It’s time to propose a toast to the memory

Of generations passing on


Banker on Your Back

Zero to sixty

like a big cat

pouncing the fast track

brilliant metallic mirror

slick and sleek

and cheetah quick

nimble coupe or convertible

swerving lane to lane

in and out of traffic

past orange barrels

flatulent buses

blazing past those

“lollygagging seniors

clueless soccer moms”

who panic and slam on the brakes

leaving in your wake

a ten-car pile up


But what do you care?

You’re living a TV commercial

moving out ahead of the pack

a cut above the rest

as long as somebody’s

sucking your fumes

you’re happy to carry

the banker on your back

you’re glad to dish out

twenty or thirty grand

as long as you can backshift

bap bap bap bap bap

and nudge your big

rectangular butt

right in front of a furious

bird-flipping taxi driver


Congratulations, fuckhead,

you’re first to get to the stop light


Haiku Postcards from the High Plains

7 June


Rustling pine needles comb back

the long striding mane

of brisk mustang winds.


16 June


Red earth

turquoise sky

Indian loaves like blistered prairie dunes

—the Jemez.


22 June


Green spiked, high-plumed,

desert urchin clutches the rocky bottom

of a long-lost sea.


30 June


Crusty boot

up side down

on a fencepost beside molted

cicada skins.


Corrida de Gallo Now

Bumble bees gather pollen

Springtime turns to summer

Mountain runoff, a dribbling trickle

Time for the village rain dance

Bold young men don Casanova masks

They swarm to nightclubs, honky tonks, taverns

All across the land


Young ladies primped and preened

Bury a live rooster up to the neck

Young men, and some not so young

Angry, frustrated, horny

We resent the meat-market atmosphere

Of the ritual but willingly do our part

We race for the rooster

On froth-clouded mounts

Swinging down low in the stirrup

Dripping sweat from dust-streaked brows

Trying to jerk that rooster by the head

From its living grave in parched soil


In the heat of excitement

Someone pulls the rooster’s head off

Women’s voices shriek and swoon

Sudden bursts of angry words

Trigger an explosion of unfettered fists

Beer bottles break

One noble rider hits the ground

The bouncer priests forcibly ejaculate

Thunderheads gather

For the seeding, and a hushed, post-violent

Awe pervades the crowd

As spattering raindrops rinse away

Drops of blood on the ground


Noelle’s Pastels

Lavish mountain landscapes jitterbug

across the canvas like gnats at play

in multilayered shadows of pastel foliage


Lakeshore is a painstaking exploration

of the depths of her own imagination

churning up bouquets of subconscious clues


She sets up her easel in rush-hour traffic

to capture freedom and independence

of sleek lightning-fast steel boxes


Her self portrait in the hall of mirrors

is the day-to-day reiteration of brush-stroke

fingerprints known as Noelle’s pastels


Yes, they light up a room all right!

Noelle’s pastels challenge brilliance

to accurately reflect refractions of light


My Heart Is a Child

I may be

aging steadily,

my beard

turning gray,

my hair

falling out,

my face

accumulating wrinkles

like autumn leaves

in the yard,

but my heart

is still innocent;

it knows nothing

of my life;

it knows nothing

except the same

odd cycle of emotions

it’s been going through

for forty-odd years.


I may love

and I may lose.

Maybe I’ll succeed

or fail in business.

I can be

calm or anxious,

happy or sad,

timid or bold,

mad or glad

or totally elated,

but my heart

remains conscious

of only one beat…

one beat…

one beat at a time.


My heart

doesn’t know

how old it is;

it has no concept

of time.

It reaches out

to you by reflex,

reaching out

for something

beautiful and vital,

reaching out

with the chubby arms

and dimpled hands

of a toddler,

taking those first

tentative steps

toward the comfort

of your loving



Passion’s Circus

The strangest feelings are yet to come

as we retreat in sheer panic

the first time a lion tamer cracks his whip.

A seemingly harmless fantasy shows its fangs,

and I try to snuff out burgeoning passions

with a fire extinguisher…

but instead proceed to spook the zebras

into a furious and bewildered frenzy.

A troupe of midget clowns speak fluent body language,

their sight gags like quixotic parables

alluding to lovable laughs and laughable loves.

Blinded by converging spotlight beams,

creative impulses tightrope a treacherous expanse

between enlightenment and destruction

with no safety net spanning

the sharply foreshortened depths.

A rabbit in my hat tricks me into thinking it’s a dove

emerging from a satin handkerchief

or an ace up my sleeve inexplicably transformed

into an oriental puzzle made of bamboo and string.

I expect her to appear

with the knife thrower or fire eater,

and I’m surprised to see her spinning through the air,

from trapeze to trapeze,

heightening suspense with every breathtaking backflip.

My love is an innocent wonderment

practicing the subtle art of suspending

countless desires on a balancing beam,

striving to assimilate the physical and spiritual,

like soulful Tibetan acrobats

celebrating the metaphysical gymnastics

of living and loving.


Long Division

Dear Georgia O’Keeffe,

I suppose things weren’t

much different in your day.

Back when the 20s roared

like gigantic flowers

bulging with jazz licks

and cat’s meow.

Fame was the name

of the game then,

just as it is now.


Whistler viewed it

as the subtle art of making enemies,

like some elaborate

new form of long division.


Georgia, I’ve had a taste

and it gave me a strong sense

of an artificial structure

made of fear and alienation.

Tell me, is that what drove

you away from Manhattan’s

garish glitz and glamour?


Was something other

than the stock market crashing

when you bolted off to Taos?

Georgia, you brought fame

to New Mexico and left

your husband to attend

his extensive collection

of pictures of you.


What sort of new math

were you two working out?

What radical new formulas?

You blazed new frontiers,

Georgia, you experimented

with the give and take,

all alone with oil and canvas

on a vast desert landscape.


How did you last so long?

Ninety-nine years

is a very long time,

especially when so many

are spent alone.


Georgia, it would appear

that you dealt with your fame

by hiding out at Abiquiu,

making famous paintings

of bleached animal skulls.


You chose to leave

Alfred and New York

and the 219 Gallery behind,

only to become

a world-renowned recluse

self assigned to a solitary outpost

at the pinnacle of artistic acclaim.


Georgia, was it

a worthwhile trade-off?

Was it worth the effort?

The loss and sacrifice?

If you had it to do over

would you still

be working things out

in long division

and nonlinear numbers?


Would the Gaea

principle still apply?

Or would you stay

with Stieglitz in New York

and practice chaos theory

on the ever increasing ranks

of ex-friends and enemies

gathering among your admirers?


Fame is the name of the game,

Georgia, you know as well

as anyone the equation.

But, tell me, how’s the balance

over a long lifetime?


I’ve been having doubts

about the quid pro quo

of giving something heartfelt

and beautiful in exchange

for something so harsh and mean.


Past Fiddle Creek

On cassette, a tape that’s been played too many times.

It should be her turn to drive but he’s not giving up the wheel.

Fringed in icy lace, a river streams beside the highway.

Clouds cast shadows that scurry across the canyon wall.

For twenty minutes she’s been watching the water

change from blue to green as they descend the mountainside.

Between them, they haven’t uttered ten words in four hours.

In the distance a column of dust rises like chimney smoke

and a column of cars lines up behind the roadworker’s stop sign.

The face of the canyon is a manmade avalanche,

the product of a dynamite and crouching Catepillar conspiracies.

The voice of the mountain shrieks like a train wreck, echoing.

Bouncing down the hillside, boulders leap across the road



Tons of skidding gravel mimic a chorus of grinding teeth.

He’s thinking, We all take our hard knocks in this life;

some people let it make them bitter…and others don’t.

A pair of frontend loaders SCRAAAAPE debris off the road.

At water’s edge, chunks of ice sparkle crown jewels

and they finally get on past Fiddle Creek and Devil’s Elbow.

The 45th Parallel creates an imaginary comfort zone

halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.

Sunlight glares brilliant reflections of mirrored meadows.

After the melt, white flags of surrender dapple

the rolling hills of afternoon coming to an end.

She notices, The pines have shed all but little mittens of snow.

He’s looking forward to Wyoming where the sky is so pale

and icy peaks so pale that all borderlines vanish.



Past Fiddle Creek

These poems were initially shared at open-mic readings in bar rooms and coffee shops. Written during the 80s and 90s, the bulk of the work was written specifically for performance purposes. A few poems were written with publication in mind, but even those usually ended up being revised into spoken-word pieces in the end. This thin volume represents a mere fraction of all the stories, microfictions, soliloquies, and vignettes produced between the mid 1970s and shortly after the turn of the 21st Century. These are the pieces that were written, read aloud, rewritten again and again. The proven crowd pleasers.

  • ISBN: 9781370440283
  • Author: RC Monson
  • Published: 2017-05-21 06:50:09
  • Words: 3629
Past Fiddle Creek Past Fiddle Creek