Maurice Manning

The Romantic Poets
April 25, 2020 Manning Maurice

The Romantic Poets


If anybody needs a head
for a grubbing hoe I’ve got three to spare,
you can take your pick.  Pig iron
is what they’re made of, but they sing
as good as any ever made.
My trouble has to do with handles—
I’m head-rich and handle-poor
when it comes to the world of grubbing hoes.
I had a friend named Bugger Veatch,
and Bug could take a hickory plank
and turn it right until it was round
enough to fit your hands, but Bug
is out of the handle-making business
on account of death.  Yes, Bug was as stout
as a mule-tree, but he got felled
by bounden death that came in the form
of a big woman he was courting
when she found out Old Bug was sparking
another woman on the side.
She knocked him graveyard-dead with a skillet.
Bug Veatch, killed by a skillet,
with a mean woman clutching the handle.
It has struck me as a fine piece
of drama that a handle-maker
of Bug’s repute should meet his end
at the hand of a woman who turned a handle
against him and gave him a mortal whack.
He didn’t die like other poets,
coughing up corrupted lungs
or swimming a treacherous patch of water
or slain by a fever caught in a swamp,
but Bug Veatch died a poet’s death,
and the legend of his art survives.

Maurice Manning’s most recent book is Railsplitter.  He lives with his family in Kentucky.