Larry D. Thomas
PECOS
(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 
 

Introduction

Larry D. Thomas, a former Texas Poet Laureate, is a true friend of Right Hand Pointing. Larry doesn't publish much in online journals, and yet his poems have appeared in many issues of RHP and this is his 11th online chapbook with us. It's an honor that Larry entrusts his work to us. As a point of personal privilege, I will say that a wonderful part of my life as an editor has been to develop relationships with several people who are my favorite poets. Larry is one of those.

 

Larry's work is not typical of what appears at RHP. I'm not smart enough to be able to articulate how it's atypical, but it is. The poems are thoroughly Texan, and thoroughly American. They are accessible, but with no hint of the compromise that accessibility sometimes requires. What I think I love most about Larry's work is the exquisite sensitivity to the lives of people. People we might think of as common and ordinary, but who are anything but. We've published Larry's work about miners, war veterans, and all sorts of people who live outside the mainstream of society. 

 

The poems in Pecos are human-and-dog poems, presented here in spite of our ban on pet poems. Have you had enough human-and-dog poems? Right. Me neither.

 

I'm reminded of Mark Doty's wonderful book, Dog Years: A Memoirabout two dogs who were with him and his partner as the partner died of AIDS. And then, of course, the dogs died, and there was more grief for Doty. 

 

Dogs die, and that presents a problem. (People die too, but I'd rather not talk about that right now.) In 2007, I attended a reading Doty did from Dog Years at the Harvard Bookstore. During the Q&A, a man admitted he was puzzled that dog owners develop these deep bonds with their dogs and then go through terrible grief when their dogs die and then they turn around and get more dogs and on the cycle goes.

 

Everyone in the room chuckled except Mark Doty who, without hesitation, said "You know, the agreement to participate in this life is a pact with grief."

 

Here's what I took home from that. The agreement to participate in this life is a pact with grief.

 

I know you'll enjoy this little collection of 10 poems from our friend Larry D. Thomas.

 

Dale Wisely

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

 

in memory of Beefy, my loyal Shetland Sheepdog,

&

for Pecos, my loyal Long-haired Chihuahua

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

 

 

"All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers,
is contained in the dog."

                                                                      

                                                                                              Franz Kafka

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Flush

Cleatus sits on the shack porch,

arching the sand with the dangling heel

of his boot. Pecos, his retired cow dog,

lies flush against Cleatus' outer thigh,

fighting the proverbial demon of sleep. 

Cleatus' hand, buried in Pecos' fur,

rises and falls with Pecos' breathing. 

As he feels for Pecos' heartbeat,

he feels instead his own, throbbing

in a cage of ribs they've shared

since Pecos was a puppy.

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Pecos

First light startles him

as if it were the scent

of a jackrabbit. 

He stretches his blue merle,

arthritic legs,

rolls over on his stomach,

and rises to his paws

slowly as the red-orange sun'll

heave itself over the horizon.

He eases to the side

of Cleatus' half-bed,

sniffs Cleatus' breath,

and jumpstarts him awake

with the slobbery, swirling

battery of his tongue.

 

 

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Fur

Each morning,

when Cleatus gazes

into his bathroom mirror,

he notices the increasing

bushiness of his eyebrows

and the lengthening hairs

on the tops of his ears

and on his earlobes.

As he and Pecos

begin their morning walk

side by side, each moves

with a slight gimp

indistinguishable from that

of the other, a slight gimp

stemming from a touch

of arthritis.  The fur of each

gleams with morning sun

like the filaments in light bulbs

heated to incandescence,

these two aged creatures

on their walk in the desert,

set apart but by the number

of their furred, rickety legs.

 

 

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Grub

For their jerky,

Cleatus slices beef into strips

for drying in the sun.

He boils pinto beans

in an old black pot

once the favorite of his mother,

an old black pot

lumpy as homemade soap. 

Cleatus cherishes his mother's

cast-iron skillet, especially

the way he never has to wash it;

the way, with nothing

but heat in the oven,

it works its magic,

turning meal, eggs, buttermilk,

lard, baking soda,

and a pinch of salt

into the steaming,

brittle miracle of cornbread.

 

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Thorns

The big thorns

hardened on a branch

of dead mesquite

are only seemingly the nastiest.

Cleatus' heart muscle still smarts

from the thick, long memory-thorns

of his dead wife's stillness:

of Smoke, the best cow horse

he ever had till he angrily

ran him down the slope

of an arroyo too rocky and steep,

fracturing Smoke's leg

beyond any hope of healing:

the thick, long, memory-thorns

dwarfing the deep ones

which took pliers

to pull from the pads of Pecos.

 

 

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Ice Fog

On cold mornings,

Cleatus reminisces about

the three-day ice fog.

He still hears mesquite

and ocotillo branches

cracking from trunks

and distant power poles

snapping like matchsticks.

He had but Smoke and Pecos

to help him herd cattle to shelter

and still sees Pecos running

in and out of view, tightening

an illusory rope around the herd:

Pecos running in and out of view,

whooshing like a tireless

blue phantom.

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

is the orange-red sun

sliding into the darkness

like legs into long johns

on cold winter nights.

Doctors and drugs, to Far

West Texans, are anathemas.

Like old cow dogs who wander

deep into the pasture to die

beneath a swirl of merciful vultures,

old cowhands who take sick

just take sick, rest as much

as possible, and swill

a little whiskey for pain. 

Cleatus' dad's old dog, Blue,

who eked out a hard life

of eighteen years, lay dead

in the pasture for weeks

before two cowhands found him.

It was as if old Blue

planned it that way

to ease the grief of Cleatus' dad,

old Blue mostly desert

by the time they spotted him,

barely enough bones for a grave.

Death

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Rose

On the floor, on a folded

saddle blanket beside the head

of Cleatus' bed, Pecos snores. 

Jerking awake, Cleatus squints

and then opens and closes

his eyes several times, to focus. 

He thinks he sees

in the moonglow,

beneath Pecos' nose,

a faint, misshapen rose,

a rose but a blush of pink,

a rose so faint it's

scarcely there at all.

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Cleatus Muses

the moon which tonight

makes Pecos cast a shadow

so dark Cleatus thinks he sees it spasm.

When full, its light stuns the shack

like the laying on of frosty hands,

blessing man and dog or waking them

to a netherworld where they reel,

caring less whether it's the bright

light of death or simply another day

graced with the staticky transmission

of "Waiting 'Round to Die."*

 

(song by Townes Van Zandt)

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

First Light Creeps

into the shack, surreptitious

as the onset of dementia. 

Each gratuitous morning,

in marvelous minutes,

lengthens the time

Cleatus and Pecos find themselves

strangely suspended in a state

half-sleep and half-wakefulness.

The cataracts, clouding

and suffusing their lenses with light,

enhance the strangeness

of the purgatorial state:

the state of sleep-waking:

the strangeness of floating

through the fleece-like

clouds of rapture.

Larry D. Thomas

PECOS

(Terlingua, Far West Texas)

 

Larry D. Thomas has published several award-winning collections of poetry including As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems which received a 2015 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards Finalist citation.  He lives in the high Chihuahuan Desert of Far West Texas with his wife and two long-haired Chihuahuas.  Among his best friends are the Chihuahuan raven, puma, great horned owl, coyote, javelina, mule deer, gray fox, Texas horned lizard, thick-handed scorpion, black-tailed jackrabbit, diamondback rattlesnake, and blue quail.  

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