Shelby Stephenson won the Bellday Poetry Prize in 2008, Allen Grossman, judge, for the manuscript, Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl, and in 2009 the Oscar Arnold Young Award, Poetry Council of North Carolina, Jared Carter, judge. Shelby Stephenson served as editor of Pembroke Magazine, an international literary journal, from 1979 to 2010.

Chapter 18 from COUNTRY

Dangers come and go, speaking of Cowboy Copas,
Hawkshaw Hawkins, Patsy Cline, and pilot

Randy Hughes, husband to Cowboy’s daughter:
crash: Camden, Tennessee, March 5, 1963:

Patsy was born in Gore, Virginia, close to
Winchester and Stephenson, 1932, her

real name, Virginia Patterson Hensley:
Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts helped map her

future, 1957, the song she sang, “Walking
After Midnight”: the folks applauded: “I

Fall to Pieces” gathered her up again into
Memory after the light plane carrying her

fell into rain and fire: “Crazy,” Willie Nelson,
writer, kept myths alive, her listeners living the

lovely stuff of soap-operas and the chicken
soups of the A.M. radio networks, songs like

Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You,” Bob Wills’s
“Faded Love” and Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams”:

after the plane plumed, her albums rallied the
imaginations of country music enthusiasts: “In

Memoriam,” “Golden Hits,” “Patsy Cline
Story”: like Elvis and Hank, she lives

on, regardless of how heartaches begin: when
Nin was nineteen, a student at Bradford Junior

College, Bradford, Massachusetts, she and her
date went to a dance-colonnade, Hampton Beach,

north of Boston, May, 1959: “I kept
looking at my feet, jitterbugging shoulder to

shoulder to Patsy Cline belting out her
hits”: Nin and I have a Golden One coming

up in 2016, our 50th, July 30: some
years ago we stopped at the post office in Stephenson,

Virginia; the post-mistress came out to
greet us: “Did you know Patsy Cline?” “Oh

yes,” she said, “she’d come home from a concert
on a Saturday night and prop her foot on that

trailer over yonder and sing until three o’clock in the
morning! Beat all I’ve ever seen; she was

one rounder.” “What’s Stephenson, Virginia,
famous for, other than Patsy,” I asked, “I’m

wondering how the town got its name, since
our Stephensons started out in Isle of Wight.”

“Trailers,” she said: “The Stephensons were farmers,
that’s all I know.” “Is there a memento or

anything I can take away to remember
Stephenson and Patsy by?” She went in the

back of the P.O. and came out with a cap:
on the front?

CLAYTON HOMES: We Build Dreams:
Stephenson, Virginia”
: I’m wearing the cap

right now, for Patsy! Some people complain that
country music’s entertainment, a horse-and-pony

show, Gaga gone Ga-ga falling out of the
hearse. Let’s get on the bandwagon: Ray Price,

from Perryville, Texas, named his band the Cherokee
Cowboys; wore an Indian headdress until The

Nashville Sound canned the steel and the fiddle;
went to strings and, in my opinion, the lasso

got real loose round the Country Roundup Corral;
on the other hand, there’s a golden goose you
must look hard to see, whatever the cost: I take
back my ring, the song goes, but not really, for

one who lusts in the mind newly balances the
moment in the string-section; plus, Ray Price can

sing anyway he wants to: one step more: Willie can
wear a red-white-blue thong, if he wishes:

Cowboy Copas’s first name was Lloyd. Cowboy’s
Cashbox? The Indian fiddler Natchee. Without

Natchee, Cowboy’s limelight would not have
loomed lugubriously: “Filipino Baby” was a

smash during World War II: the sum of matter
equals the interest in the sparks, leading into

outlines of roads still open, although some
bushes have been yanked out of the ground;

trees and shrubs wait to be planted, nurtured: I’m
hoping to swell the surface-scratch, rake ground into a

mound so that individual artists may shine: I’d like to
nourish recovery as living things, like the big, greenish

August spider dangling in its web: I can’t see the
hairline-fishline − oh, there it is! Let the sun

make its visit. Cricket’s prone on the terrace, half
in, half out of shine, not far from my feet, a cardinal’s

shadow away over the lawn my mother would
love: she’s not far from here, lying under a mound of

clay, beside my father: they were wed for fifty-eight
years − lovers in the locusts droning for the

redbirds summoning this Sunday morning
coming down. The early Country Gentlemen’s

one of my favorite bluegrass groups: spring,
1970, Nin and I drove from Madison, Wisconsin,

to Bean Blossom, Brown County Park, Indiana, to
Bill Monroe’s annual fest: she was pregnant with

Jacob: Silver Spur was in charge of sound: in the
Gentlemen’s band: Bill Yates (bass) always sang

“I’ll Break Out.” (My friend, the banjoist, Richard Hood,
calls it the “acne” song.) Eddie Adcock (banjo),

Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin, tenor-harmony),
and Charlie Waller: funny, solid characters: they’d

sing “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight” and I swear I could
see her plane aloft, far away-ay-ay “in a land that is

fair; happy landings to you, Amelia Earhart, our
first grand lady of the air”: Charlie’s gone

home now, and son Randy’s carrying on: are
you your father’s father and the stream

too? Let’s gather the Country Music Association
(CMA, formed, 1958) and bevel into it the effects of

Rock-N-Roll. Oh say can you see gyrating the Tupelo
Mississippi Flash − Connie B. Gay, Wesley Rose, and

other promoters emoting over Who’s on first and
second? Where’s the Cash? Hello! CMA started the

Country Music Hall of Fame: I hear about the
Walkway to the Stars in that Hall: eagles scream,

bucks do-se-doe, toads froog low where green buffaloes
Country Music City, Tennessee, USA, all day, every

day; brass and bronze plaques consecrate
images of people getting rich quickly, losing to

glitter − loving fast, living hard. Memory courts
houses of gold, without love, wealth or health:

of the first six members elected to the Hall of Fame,
three were living at the time, three deceased:

1961: deceased: Jimmie Rogers, Fred Rose,
Hank Williams; first living person inducted:

Roy Acuff, 1962; Tex Ritter, 1974,
and Ernest Tubb, 1965. Where oh

where are the women? Running the human
race! If you want to be a poet, self-promote.

Move to San Francisco or New York City,
see the bright lights, bring them inside yourself,

show your shouts in a website with cozy
corners, rib-strong, structural support, and

hype: for my money, I’d show you the streams
in Cow Mire, their gurgling and winding goose-grass

greening year round, all ready when I walk the
path after frost discourages the ticks. Is not the

poem being written right now in Cow Mire?
Richard Jones bought the Higgins property

adjoining Cow Mire which divides us: he
called the other day, saying he wished I would put

Cow Mire on the map in a poem: I’d like to
bring poets here to see the rambling bramble of

their wisdom, as they extract the text out of the
woods’ texture, plunder the floats the logs fall

across the path, let their hair flutter the wind with
ferns, sweet ferns feathering the sour-mash,

dogwood, bay, sweetgum, southern oak, Carolina
ash; the haw whose berries remind me of the

lantern, miniature, Paul Revere on his “midnight
ride” might have lifted toward shuddering

windows holding light in the night to warn the
people that the British were coming around

Lexington and Concord. I don’t get tired of my
rounds in Cow Mire. Striding balances my steps.

I can wait for spring when Partridge-berry and
Jewel-weed get bold and sing. Even the coffee

Nin spilled on the floor in her bathroom raises its
voice: “There’s nothing stickier than coffee and

cream on your feet while you’re sitting on the
john.” Sweetly the tones call clusters, sesames!

Pete Seeger’s father, Charles Seeger, taught
Henry Cowell at Berkley. Henry Cowell and

Charles Seeger explored experimentally −
Music − so far so good. Floyd Cramer was

self-taught; one of the architects of “The
Nashville Sound.” Listen to his lilting

sliding, blooping creaming cram − “Last Date.”
Conway Twitty put words to it. Born

Harold Jenkins, he took his name from Conway,
Texas, and Twitty, Arkansas: Cramer’s

childhood’s Huttig, Arkansas, though he was
born in Shreveport: makes him musical babes

with Faron and Webb: FC’s piano charmed Music
City, USA, the Opry, Chet, and sessions.

Scag’s silent − Tiger Cat − Kohler Pro 25
engine. Moon rose right over the plankhouse as

Dusk slumped into the horizon Sunday at the
McGee’s Cross Roads Pool. I did the frog-stroke and

scissor-kick, while Nin put her face in the water,
turning up her face back down in bubbles −

Australian Crawl, like William Stafford’s world
writing itself: I had lunch with him once, Reynolda

House, Wake Forest U: country music’s country all
over itself: Dick Curless: Maine: deep, throaty

voice, leaning into Dan Fulkerson’s “A Tombstone
Every Mile”: I could say I could care less, but I

do: Ted Daffan’s a name stretchy as taffy, for he
was a dead-on-the-daffy-dot songwriter: “I’m a

Fool to Care,” “Born to Lose,” “No Letter Today,”
“Heading Down the Wrong Highway,” “I’ve Got

Five Dollars and It’s Saturday Night” and
“Worried Mind”: Ray Charles recorded several of

these: Daffan played steel, too; that’s what
originally endeared him to me. Born in

Louisiana, he considered Houston home: A
“star” in Tennessee, he dimmed in his own

hometown: Faulkner’s nickname in Oxford was
“Count No Count.” Funny how fame slips between the

cracks at home: Daffan played with “The Blue Ridge
Playboys” at one time: Floyd Tillman was lead guitarist.  





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