Issue 23 | Fall 2019

All the Daves in the World

I’m thinking about Dave Robinette throwing Budweiser bottles

             at those big fellows in the Baltimore biker bar when Barbara

walks by and says she wishes I were her little boy and her husband


at the same time so she could love me both ways, which is about

             as stupid a thing as anyone has said to me as well as one of the more

profound, for who among us has not still within him or her that little


boy or girl of his or her youth as well as the lover, the soldier,

             the justice and so on as he or she heads for second childishness

and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


Not yet, though. Also, crazy shit can happen at any moment:

             It’s 1957, and Little Richard is on tour in Australia, and he looks up

to see fire streaming across the skies, and he announces that it’s


a sign from God and throws his jewelry in a lake and tells his band

             that he’s giving up rock ‘n’ roll forever, and when one of the musicians

says no, it’s actually the Sputnik satellite burning up as it re-enters


the earth’s atmosphere, Little Richard says what if it’s an extinct

             Russian satellite and a sign from God? When I was a young man,

we fellows would drive over the Mississippi to the Honeydripper


in Maringouin to dance with the Cajun girls or get our asses whipped

             by their boyfriends. Either was fine. Either we’d take Sylvie

or Josette in our arms and feel their warm bosoms against our chests


or we’d got into a punchup with Armand and Thibaud or both:

             the idea was to do the one and narrowly escape the other, to spin out

in the Honeydripper’s gravel lot and heehaw at the outraged suitors


as they hurled beer cans and cursed us in words we didn’t understand.

             Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes it didn’t. More often than not,

we’d end up at one fraternity house or another, and if it were early


enough, there might be a party to make up for the fun we’d missed

             or add to that we’d had, as on the night when Esquerita

and the Eskerettes were at the Lambda Chi house churning out


grindhouse rousers like “Reelin’ and Rockin’” and “My Ding-a-Ling”

             when suddenly Esquerita scans the audience, pops his wrist

in my direction and, looking a lot more like a gay black Uncle Sam


than the God in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco,

             says, I want you! as he waves me toward the stage, and while

on any other night I would have been up there, at the time I was


dating a girl I wanted to impress, and even though we split up

             not long after, scandal-averse me backpedaled to a safe spot at

the edge of the dance floor that night while one of the Lambda Chis


took my place, pride and shame whipping across his face as Esquerita

             popped the buttons on this bravo’s Oxford shirt, lowered his khakis,

and left him on the dance floor in a pair of plaid boxers, slump-shouldered


and abashed, as the other brothers expressed silent thanks that they

             were not him, even as they wished they were. I wonder where Dave

Robinette is now. He was even more of a nerd than I was, married


with two kids, and the least talkative person I knew. I was in graduate

             school by then, and the bikers made fun of us because we were skinny

and bookish, and it was clear that asses were about to be whipped


in this bar as well, and not those of the other patrons, either, which is

             when silent Dave began whipping bottles at the bikers’ heads one after

another, deliberately missing them by a foot or so but just enough


to make Tiny and Scorch or whatever their names were say, Aw, you guys              

            are crazy! and clear out, leaving me open-mouthed and Dave with just

the slightest smile because he’d done something brave and stupid


that was totally out of character but that saved us both from beatings.

             In that moment, Dave was two Daves at one and the same time,

and everything was happening at once for both of them, and he was happy.

Filed under: Poetry

David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” His latest poetry collection is More Than This.