Here’s What People are Saying About My Latest Book

“The poems in Shawn Pavey’s Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6 examine the seasons in the author’s life, broken down into days and then into moments, whether it’s a warm Kansas City wind, drinking on 39th Street, or a moment of quiet contemplation filled with the uncertainty that comes with just being alive in the 21st century. Pavey’s poems are straight and honest, taking the time to just live now and put it all down on paper, something that the rest of us usually put off until tomorrow. His words are as spare as bone, leaving the wind and taking nothing for granted.” John Dorsey, author of Appalachian Frankenstein

“Shawn Pavey’s poems capture the longing we feel when we lift the needle from a record album. In the turntable’s wishwiswish between Stratocaster riffs, there lies hope and resignation, Bruce Springsteen and hungry cats, maple leaves and ‘plastic blasted into space.’ Pavey’s poems give voice to our hunger for life, a medieval song heard through 21st Century earbuds.” Al Ortolani, author of Francis Shoots Pool at Chubb’s Bar and Waving Mustard in Surrender.

“In Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6, I was reminded of how a gifted poet like Shawn Pavey doesn’t try to convince his readers to have things we don’t need but to slyly persuade us to open our eyes to the presence of the treasure of those things we cannot live without. In this book we have love, surprise, death, angels and more pictured for us in a flow of language both ordinary and extraordinary gracing us with a dancing vocabulary’s most lyrical and unforgettable choreography.” Chuck Sullivan, author of Zen Matchbook and Alphabet of Grace.

Winding Down as the World Wakes

Morning

It is a simple act,
the brewing of coffee in the chill
of a dark March morning.

My cheap automatic drip machine
belches and spits a grotesque sound
as pleasing as any cello concerto
or crow squawk,
making music to make me wake.

The sun will rise soon.

This sky will move from black to gray
and from the window of this low-rent,
one-bedroom apartment
I’ll see the three-story side of Queen City
TV & Appliance,
its top to bottom cracked wall anointed
with a healing concrete salve and stitched up
by two iron bars bolted into brick.

But now it is only a black slab in invisible decay
in the shadows of new monuments
straining up from downtown Charlotte streets,
scratching at the horizon with jagged spires of steel and glass
shiny like aluminum foil crowns
littering the sky like a playground.

Cars already begin to sputter by on the streets below.
A block away to the West, an ambulance siren screams,
dopplering around a corner.
Buses will soon lumber by
with their high pitched diesel moans and sighs,
short sharp squeals of air brake expulsions.

Ceiling creakings above me signify movement,
an unknown body staggering
into the consciousness of another day.
It is business a s usual:
a toilet flush,
a cascading of pressure-fed water through
a shower nozzle
bouncing off a metal tub.

The sun has risen, silently.

I somehow always expect to hear it creak and groan
in the well-worn motions of a task
so ancient and lasting
that maybe we don’t even notice the sounds;
the universe itself being such a well-oiled,
well-maintained cog works,
its machinations leaving us in a silence
we don’t even notice our own noisy bumbling
through the days and nights of our movement.

And remarkable even yet is the singing of birds,
pigeons and robins,
dingy with the dusts of city living.
Early morning light finds them perched on power lines
through which the juice of coffee makers and electric alarm clocks
flows in turbine generated currents.

The brick wall through my window begins to glow
as only orange and red cooked clay can,
vibrant and dull.

Coffee has brewed and I sip it slowly in new light
where somewhere away from this city
dogwood trees bloom fragrant, crucifix blossoms
and finches and towhees may sing sweeter songs
than the awkward soundings
of mocking birds on telephone lines
in the center of a rumbling city

yawning and cursing itself awake.

© 2008 by Shawn Pavey.  All rights reserved.

 

Universal Fireworks

Leonid Meteor Shower with James

 

I.

 

Our bodies clothed against air cold

      enough to freeze water where it stands,

James and I stand and look skyward, to the northwest,

 

      sipping coffee in the dark of our yard.

 

Crazy enough, we two,

to watch rock burn in the sky

        as the matter and the atoms of the matter

break down,

component parts reassembling

into something altogether new.

 

II.

 

This, we will not see again.

 90 years will pass.

We will not see

this rain of rock

of fire                          of ash

 

mingling with the air we breathe.

 

We will not taste on our tongues burning

sky, crackling energy, as steam

from our breath swirls a silvered

motion away from our bundled up selves.

 

Big as fists, big as elephants’ heads, as small as a grain of sand,

meteors

 

sizzled dark sky two hours before dawn

November’s July 4th fireworks

raining bright fire

down on us,

incandescent particles

exploding into air connecting us

to all that is in

this infinite expanse

where we spin in perfect symmetry.

 

III.

 

90 years will pass,

politicians will die.

Captains of industry                will die.

Priests                                      will die.

And monks.

And James.

And me.

 

Before meteors meet us again,

lighting a dark night with embers,

we will all die.

 

IV.

 

Bringing fire,

meteors will shimmer a dark sky,

 

they will pour upon the earth,

spread dusts from places we have not seen,

 

they will come again

out of darkness as before

 

when the world still steamed in the chill

from its new birth.

 

They will bring with them

fire, a breath they will breathe

into bones and dust and ash,

 

they will breathe into the air, stain the sea,

vapor into clouds a fresh mattering.

 

Who will stand in the cold dark then?

Who will smell the fire in the night?

 

Will they coat themselves against frost and ice,

drink the black coffee of morning before light,

will they delight in a spectacle of fiery mists,

 

will they fix their eyes on heaven?

© 2008, Shawn Pavey.  All rights reserved.

For Lucille Clifton

Dear Lucille
On the passing of Lucille Clifton, 1936 – 2010

I would like to think
that B.B. King named his guitar for you.
I know he didn’t. We in the know
know the myth
the real story –

we know that it is not you
whom he played to make music so sweet
that I, a grown man, cry when I hear it –

but I am comforted thinking it is so
even though you did not need a man
for making music, your wide hips
spinning men like tops
(we never doubted it for a second!)

and your words spinning out
to the sky because the pages could not
hold them for long, Lucille,
could not keep them silent all black and white

your words like you bigger than what they laid upon
and they echo like you now that you’re gone

so that sadness cannot take
hold for long, Lucille.

© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.

Bare-boned

Architecture

“Grisly, foul, and terrific
is the speech of bones”
— Donald Hall

Brittle and dry,
white and empty
of marrow – bones
cook in a desert sun.

Molecules in the heat
crack wide open,
atoms spill out onto sand
a fine powder once alive.

Vestige of frame,
purpose of structure,
crumbles and flakes
layer after layer.

Over what was once coyote, wind
thunders through skull cavities,
howls a vox phasmatis.

© 2011, Shawn Pavey
Previously published in Cant.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton

Little Big Star: for Alex Chilton (1950 – 2010)

“I never travel far without a little Big Star”
— Paul Westerberg of The Replacements in the song “Alex Chilton” on Pleased to Meet Me

All that mattered was the song, Alex,
the letters and the words
and those succulent poppy hooks.

We danced for you, Alex,
we learned diminished chords for you, Alex.
We bought your records.
We played them on our turntables

until the vinyl wore so thin
that light passed through the grooves

and it is that light that we miss, Alex,
but it shines on wax and gleams in bright
binary code like the light we drank from you –

our “Blue Moon” in darkness.
It will sustain us for now, Alex
until that next misfit unearths
a copy of “In the Street”
without a thing to do
except talk to you.

Aah.

Previously published by PresentMagazine.com.
© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.

Wings of Desire

Damiel’s Lament: A Prologue
after Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire

I know no thing –
if I lift a stone, the stone remains in place.
What I hold is an idea of stone,
an abstract of stone.

Through all of my time,
I carried this weight of not weighing,
watched every thing,

from before the arrival
of humans, rising from the valley on their two legs,
shouting to no one and every thing at once
Ah! Oh!

to now, this city and this dust
and this dirty air, this Berlin.

There he is.
The old man who walks with such strain,
such purpose, there by the wall,
the multi colored painted wall
stretching for miles through the heart
of this city, creating two countries
out of one place.

There he is.
The old man from before the old war.

Stories – he thinks these thoughts
and I, listening, hear them —
stories spill from his old pen to his white page.
He thinks and he writes
and the thinking and writing become the same
and I, listening, always listening, hear

Why am I here and not there?
How can it be that I, who am I
wasn’t before I was
and that sometime I, the one I am
no longer will be the one I am?

I hear these thoughts, all thoughts –
his, hers, all –
every one and they are not mine.

I am no thing in this body.
This body is nothing.

© Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.