BUTTE RAT

Dan Lavelle was a poet

with impeccable credentials—

he was a wild-ass Butte rat

bound to a wheel chair

after a mishap behind the wheel

involving speed, involving age

and rage and alcohol, of course.

His curse (our reward) was surviving

the wreck, recovering, incurring,

uncovering, and insuring

slurred speech and immobility

for the rest of his days.

They called it “brain injury.”

He called it “scrambled eggs

and ham—no toast.” Dan had trouble

being taken seriously,

and he was a serious guy

about pulling your leg,

copping a feel, or making you laugh

at yourself. He knew how

seriously funny human beings could be

when they were being seriously human—

did I mention he was a Butte guy?

A working-class knucklehead.

An aficionado of the big mustache,

blood brother to the Hells Angels,

all those post-war, po-boy,

testosterone fueled assholes, outlaw

boomers living fast, dying hard,

and not giving two Helena fucks for

the prudence of governing suits

or the tough talk of John E. Law.

Danny Boy perfected his “Elephant Man”

imitation—don’t laugh. For all

the distractions, his bare-assed

dependence, those shocked glances,

expressions of pity, repressed horror,

and masked disgust at his slump-n-moan,

his drool-n-leer—the eyes

were alive on the stage of his face,

pushing and pulling his heart

across the page like Mick Jagger, Marty

Robbins, Johnny Rotten and Jimmy

Reeves. Dan Lavelle was a poet

who wrote love songs that crooned

desire and despair. No one

struggled to understand him

there—he spoke clearly . . .

he was a man . . . of letters—

well, a sort of “poetry” man,

maybe a little frilly, more

of a “ladies” man, which was

exactly what he wanted to be. Dan

Lavelle was one Hell of a poet—

one mess of a bag-a-bones.

He was a prankster, a pain in the ass

who could make you laugh,

make you cry, a tough little guy,

a fuckin’ Butte rat who lived longer

than he should’ve perhaps (given

the fact that he died and lived

dead too long) but who ain’t guilty of that?

We’re all hangin’ on till the pit comes

for us, that nightmare poison

dawning on our lust. So, Girls, you can

keep your panties on ‘cause

Dan the Man has left the building—

the richest hill on Earth hangs on

for the punch line . . . so sue me,

Danny swallowed a gaggle of toxic geese,

opened the floodgates of the maze,

released the rats to dance with the piper

who plays Blinded by the Light

on blues guitar, growls like Howlin’ Wolf

holdin’ the keys to a ’73 Camero

Super Sport—mag wheels still spinnin’

in the middle of the air, revved up

like a deuce in his Springsteen ear,

the rats are loose tonight in Walkerville

and runnin’ down the mean streets of Butte.

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