Kell Robertson

Pathwise Press. 2311 Broadway St. New Orleans, LA 70125

Well…I am a dyed-in-the wool creature of the asphalt, a denizen of the rarefied air of Boston, a stranger to the West, cowboys, and the charms and horrors of the hinterlands. So I am an unlikely reviewer for “Bear Crossing,” a collection of poetry from Kell Robertson republished by the Pathwise Press. Robertson is a wizened old cowboy poet, songwriter, vagabond, ner-do-well, drunk…if he is telling the truth. Of course he quotes Faulkner, which may bring some doubt:

“I don’t have much patience with the facts, and any writer is a congenital liar to begin with or he wouldn’t take up writing.”

I did find much to recommend in this chap. Robertson works well with the “white trash” vernacular, the tall tales, and the drunken fonts of wisdom he comes across during his sojourn through the backwaters. Here is a well-observed slice-of-life in a down-at-the-heels town, titled: “Taos Plaza”

“… A young girl
lifts her skirt
to scratch
the staph infection
on her plump thigh

the local Mexican lover boys
are disgusted, “Shit
I wouldn’t fuck her
with somebody else’s dick.

Sun Hawk
one of Geronimo’s grandsons
is pleased when
I say hello, says:

“I am glad someone
remembers Sun Hawk.”

then heads for
the infection ridden girl
in a very straight line.”

In the poem “Sue” Robertson uses grotesquely dried apples as a silent Greek chorus to the lives of quiet desperation in some dusty tourist stop along the road:

“Her husband makes faces
out of dried apples
which wrinkle up
into a line
of grotesques
which she sells here
over the cash register.
Since his back went out
it’s about all that he can do
except well, sometimes
he drinks too much.
The tourist couple
in the corner booth
look again at their
Triple A map
as she walks into the kitchen
the husband’s eyes
follow her very fine ass
as if it was
the sun going down
for the very last time.”

Recommended. — Doug Holder