Into the Epode with Grover Lewis

The day before the Ditty Bops came to town,
the ghost of Grover Lewis prowled the backstage
canvas tent smoking with one hand and fuming
with the other like a dumbshow player.

While the painters and the carpenters hammered
and brushed, Grover stood on the amplifier
overseeing the pandemonium like he was
in someone’s grandfather’s pulpit preaching

from a fragrant text of his mother’s hallowed
last words, and the sunset didn’t stop him talking,
nor the dawn, nor the scudding shadows
before the storm broke in an early morning shower.

The university town was in west Texas,
the splendor of short grass barely dried
when the educated girls came to lay territorial
claim like locusts, and Grover cursed

like the sailors he never knew but the father
he thought he knew when he emerged
from childhood’s wreckage, a fever growing
as evening fell and the once relaxed crowd

grew restless with the opening act’s mulligans
when someone pulled down the curtain
and the Ditty Bops were forced to appear
before their time, the stage lit like a firecracker,

Grover watching like some stricken, besotted
lover holding his mother’s tatted lace, singing along,
“And all the voices shut you up
-Someone put a brick in your coffee cup.-“

until the show shut down and the last sound
he heard was his own, as the carnival packed up
and the stars in the big west Texas sky, one by one,
lit up with all the wideness of a father’s arms

and the transport of a mother’s smile, spelling:
who? a geek; where? here; what? endless mystery;
when? now; why? where’s your notebook, you’ve
a new story to write, past the strophe and into the epode.


Click here for lyrics to “Walk or Ride” (2004)
See Shay/Fireblossom's "Word Garden Word List #3 (Grover Lewis)" for challenge and prompt words. In researching for this post, I read "Grover Lewis: An Appreciation" by his friend, Dave Hickey, written for the Los Angeles Times in 1995. It and Katy Vine's "Return to Splendor" really gave me a great appreciation of who Lewis was, the man, the journalist, the poet/writer.
I'm sharing this with dVerse's Open Link Night #305 December Live Edition, our host Björn. Click on Mr. Linky and join in!

42 thoughts on “Into the Epode with Grover Lewis

      1. Gillena Cox

        Wow a lovely poem
        My favourite lines

        “and the stars in the big west Texas sky, one by one,
        lit up with all the wideness of a father’s arms”

        Much💜live

        Like

  1. fireblossom32

    I am speechless! Oh gosh Dora, you put so much into this! My day is made and then some.

    A little business to take care of, though: After 3 days, my posts go to comment moderation so that spammers can’t fill my blog with nonsense. So I’m sorry you ran into that. I once woke up to over a hundred spam comments, and that’s when I put in moderation for older posts. But there is good news! Starting with the next word list on Monday, there will be a linky! Yay!

    Now, back to your poem. I can just picture Grover in this milieu, half pandemonium, half art being made. And you worked in not only the list words, but included the west Texas short grass, his parents, and even the carnival from “Thanks For The Use of the Hall”! Then we have the Ditty Bops, who I hadn’t even known existed. You went above and beyond for this, my friend. I am thrilled that several people got into Grover Lewis behind my prompt and this just tops it all. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you’ve made MY day, and I’m just over the moon that you liked it! Thanks for alerting me to “comment moderation” (it would be nice if the site made it clear) but guess what? I use it too and many have been as confused by WP’s tactics. Looking forward to linky, and in the meantime checking out all the responses to your great prompt. Learned a lot from it. 😉❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ain S

      This is an example of making a hard task look so easy because of how very well it is written. Not just poetry, but a narrative that moves along and pulsates in rhythm. You made the topic, Grover, so fascinating that now I must do research and find out more. This narrative style really reads well, entices.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you kindly, Ain. Shay/Fireblossom is the one to go to if you’re really interested. She’s long been a fan and frankly her introductory remarks on Grover sparked my own imagination.

        Like

  2. This was better than any autobiography I could read of the man, Dora–far more alive and full of a sense of humanity. Unlike Shay, I have never read him except unknowingly in his Rolling Stone articles, which I always grabbed a copy of back in the day. The way you go about your presentation of him, for lack of a better phrase, is as complex as catching the first image in a fun house mirror, but it plays out true in every exquisite detail, and I feel a real sense of who he was here, as well as the zeitgeist that played out around him. I loved the tune as well. Loved it all. What an experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joy, Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, the more so as you like me were previously unacquainted with Lewis. Shay’s prompt put me on the trail of discovering more about him, and knowing the double murder of his mother and father, his life playing out like a Greek tragedy, this poem was my attempt to put it all together in my mind. The Ditty Bops were a bonus! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Glenn A. Buttkus

    Incredible. Like you I love to do research for many of my poems. How could I have not heard of Grover Lewis? He sounded like a saner version of Hunter Thompson, a compadre for Kerouac and Gary Snyder. Another role for Joaquin Phoenix when they do the Bio-Pic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Glenn. Wouldn’t it be great to see Phoenix in such a role? You’ll be interested to know too that he and Larry McMurtry were college buddies at North Texas State. Hunter Thompson worked with Lewis at Rolling Stone and said of him: “He was a cowboy, but in a quiet kind of way, like the difference between Austin and Dallas. He could get very dark. He would get into funks, and he had to be coaxed out of them. He’d stay that way for days. My job, as I saw it, was to get Grover out of the funk. I had great respect for Grover. He was a classic, solitary, almost academic writer. I mean, he was smart as a . . . whip. You could study Grover, and I did.”

      Like

  4. Don’t have any background on Grover Lewis so I read this in media res, encountering the man exactly how you present him, nervously offstage bearing witness to a magnitude without and within. The part of the chorus that never stopped singing. You show great range in this — girl, you got chops — and makes me so look forward to what’s next from your pen.

    Like

  5. “like the sailors he never knew but the father
    he thought he knew when he emerged
    from childhood’s wreckage, ”
    This line made me think of those whom I ministered to in the past who really didn’t know their father…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The pain this causes, the consequences, never really fade but can be overcome with God’s help. Sometimes I think they have a better conception than most what a good father ought to be, and recognize those qualities in their Heavenly Father more readily because of their yearning hearts.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “Sometimes I think they have a better conception than most what a good father ought to be, and recognize those qualities in their Heavenly Father more readily because of their yearning hearts.” So true Dora

        Like

  6. That is so. so good. My favorite line is: “the sunset didn’t stop him talking” — I thought that was subtle, but super interesting. Unexpected imagery that I think Lewis would have loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Björn. He appears that way to me too, a gonzo journalist like Hunter S. Thompson respected among his peers and his profession until “New Journalism” itself died out.

      Like

  7. sanaarizvi

    This is absolutely stellar writing, Dora! I am especially moved by; “Grover stood on the amplifier overseeing the pandemonium like he was in someone’s grandfather’s pulpit preaching from a fragrant text of his mother’s hallowed last words.”💝💝

    Liked by 2 people

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