Monday, October 12, 2009

Pale John Byler

John Muir said the lumbermen of Puget Sound were doubtful in color, slow of speech,
as if partly out of breath in 1918.
It was the hard work of surfeit destruction that trained their brains, the war for human nature,
moving giant trees over mountains like Werner Herzog in a rain forest
slogging along in resin stiff pants
the conquest of the useless.
This is the foppery pale John Byler caught himself in riding the hard rails all the way West
after what Muir called the rare "free roamer of the wilderness ... in contact with free nature in a thousand forms, drinking at the fountains of things"
Pale John Byler, an Amish flâneur wanting to live the tilted hat life before he died from his asthma in flat Iowa a dirt farmer and family man not hardly 40.
Robert Hass says in his poem “Iowa, January”

In the long winter nights, a farmer’s dreams are narrow.
Over and over, he enters the furrow.

Wild John Byler as a fresh flâneur from Middlefield Ohio (on left) next to a forest friend at their logging camp near Seattle, Washington, (woo-hoo!) c. 1920.
Unknown Smiley Vernon

The grandpa I never knew exists in stories I think I heard
He grew up on a farm in Iowa waiting for his mission to come knocking like a board member
He grew up on his farm in flat corn-fed Iowa a shy small man who never knew his father, wild John Byler,
He went to church only when he could be on time
He was waiting for his mission

The mission came like a stern man with combed hair and sent him to a dirt church in northern Minnesota
It was a frozen sod farm carved from trees with an outhouse at the end of a cold path of snow
where Smiling Vernon unleashed
Let his hair out wild like a crazy banshee in his moldering shack full of boys of curly hair
Singing to his brown cows his own made up songs

My grandpa Smiley Vernon who died while singing in his sleep,
went door to door like a Mormon on a mission
Like a Mormon missionary up and down the Little Fork River named by Fur Traders against Indians
only he was a crazy Mennonite (not an Amishman) who never knew his father, natty Seattle Byler,
not a shy man on time or not at all
but a man on a mission, no question

once he found a way to make his own songs he was Smiling Vernon
loved by all until his heart quit early
He was the grandpa who never knew his dad, the asthmatic lumberman,
A shy man until he found his mission
Then he sang a new song for his cows and ate bananas by the box


Anonymous Shannon said...

I love it!

2:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home