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OCTOBER, 28, 2005
A Chapbook Review of Milk Bowl Moon Over St. Louis by David E. Patton
St. Louis poet David E. Patton`s poetry, bursts like a newly seasoned soup served up at a mission kitchen amidst a gaggle of strangers. Pushing fifty and largely self-educated Patton is a gay black man and his territory is Americana. However Patton`s use of vernacular is a blend of Walt Whitman and a young rap poet. So how can this be: a modern poet whose coming-of-age era was the 1970`s? How can this man of fifty-something differ from so many who claim to write poetry? Afterall many poets are poor and perhaps downtrodden. But not all poets have a voice.
Take this simple line from:
'I`m so poor that
I don`t even have rats,
ain`t no sense`n me
making a blessin out of da.'
Further clues of Pattons experience lurk in the choice of locales: The Mission. The Y. The U.S. Navy.
In poem 10, two sailors meet; the banal conversation hints at a weariness of what they have seen but would rather not say.
You were in the service during the war?
Is that right? What ship?
The transport Agwi Prince.
The Agwi Prince was it,
you think back much on them days?
Ever now and then, about the girls...
Liberty in Frisco, Oakland.
O, those days of the white mule,
now it`s almost a haze.
As a traditionalist poet Patton`s most eloquent deliveries are about home life: a nephew bouncing on a bed, a panting dog whose tongue hangs out like an 'iris petal.' Occasionally Patton reads like a resigned stranger, arriving in a new town, acknowledging the grim reality without complaining too strongly. As an occasional transient - Frisco to Denver to Saint Louis - a sense of humour permeates the listing of encounters, incidents. Patton says 'We ain`t men without Brut Super Dry Extra Strength... Ain't popular without breath smelling of Scope Original Mint.'
But the strongest moment in the chapbook distils what can only be a modern complaint, the frustration of these apocalyptic times: war, racial conflict, poverty.
XVII for Glen
I want to be the blackest person on earth.
Black enough that the stars take up residence in me,
black enough that birds want to mate with me,
black enough that the alphabet of life began with the letter B,
black enough that a black boy's is the beginning of all belonging,
that black girl means the heavenly birth of the world.
I want people to look at me and say
he's black, he's black, he's black, damn he's black!
and still not get the blackness of me.
I want to be blacker than grey black,
blue black, blacker than black tinted with black
so black that things darken in my presence.
I want to be blacker than the night caught inside my shoes
I want to walk black, sleep black, eat black,
dream black dreams as to push black earth into eternal darkness.
I want to look black, see black, think black back
to the dawning of time.
So black that dawn was ashamed it was ever born,
I want to be so black the sun asks the moon for a tan
and men take to their fashion an overcoat
of raven feathers.
I want to be black enough to make crows feathers
the monetary standard of the world,
and Lord, dear Lords, I want to be black enough
to know that I am black enough to be black as I am.
Patton is a poet who has lived and travelled around the U.S. the detail of his choice of words give a subtle but telling insight into the banal but accurate details of every day life.
Finally in poem XVIII Patton asks: Can I get kanka
Can I Kee?
Highway 52 South.
Homeward to Saint Louis.
Contact: PERSISTENCIA* PRESS,
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East Greenwhich, RI 02818, USA