Cherrylog Road

This post I wanted to share another of my favorite poems, Cherrylog Road by James L. Dickey.

Dickey was born in Buckhead, Georgia in 1923. He would attend Clemson University before joining the U.S. effort in WWII. He served as a Night Fighter in an air squadron in the Pacific Theater and flew over 100 combat missions. After the war he spent time continuing his education and taught and lectured for awhile. He eventually decided, in his words to “Chase the buck,” and he began to work as a writer in advertising. He would return to more personal writing and would publish his first collection of poetry in n 1960 called Into the Stone, and other writings. He would become a national poet Laurette in 1966 and publish his acclaimed novel Deliverance in 1970. He would even have a cameo in the Burt Reynolds starring film adaptation.

Dickey’s writing is known for a sense of primitivism that he envokes even as modern man would like to escape from it. He often in his writing inhabits animals and gives us nature’s perspective. He liked to blur the lines of reality and the dream world and often base human desire.

In the poem Cherrylog Road a young man has parked his bike in a junkyard and is awaiting his girlfriend to come along for a make out session in an abandoned and decrepit auto. While he waits he gathers up some parts for girl to show her dad as an excuse to go in the first place. I love this poem, hope you enjoy it as well. Keep up to date with Mid-American-Culture and follow us on Twitter for fresh content daily and I leave you on Cherrylog Road.

Cherrylog Road

Off Highway 106
At Cherrylog Road I entered
The ’34 Ford without wheels,
Smothered in kudzu,
With a seat pulled out to run
Corn whiskey down from the hills,
And then from the other side
Crept into an Essex
With a rumble seat of red leather
And then out again, aboard
A blue Chevrolet, releasing
The rust from its other color,
Reared up on three building blocks.
None had the same body heat;
I changed with them inward, toward
The weedy heart of the junkyard,
For I knew that Doris Holbrook
Would escape from her father at noon
And would come from the farm
To seek parts owned by the sun
Among the abandoned chassis,
Sitting in each in turn
As I did, leaning forward
As in a wild stock-car race
In the parking lot of the dead.
Time after time, I climbed in
And out the other side, like
An envoy or movie star
Met at the station by crickets.
A radiator cap raised its head,
Become a real toad or a kingsnake
As I neared the hub of the yard,
Passing through many states,
Many lives, to reach
Some grandmother’s long Pierce-Arrow
Sending platters of blindness forth
From its nickel hubcaps
And spilling its tender upholstery
On sleepy roaches,
The glass panel in between
Lady and colored driver
Not all the way broken out,
The back-seat phone
Still on its hook.
I got in as though to exclaim,
“Let us go to the orphan asylum,
John; I have some old toys
For children who say their prayers.”
I popped with sweat as I thought
I heard Doris Holbrook scrape
Like a mouse in the southern-state sun
That was eating the paint in blisters
From a hundred car tops and hoods.
She was tapping like code,
Loosening the screws,
Carrying off headlights,
Sparkplugs, bumpers,
Cracked mirrors and gear-knobs,
Getting ready, already,
To go back with something to show
Other than her lips’ new trembling
I would hold to me soon, soon,
Where I sat in the ripped back seat
Talking over the interphone,
Praying for Doris Holbrook
To come from her father’s farm
And to get back there
With no trace of me on her face
To be seen by her red-haired father
Who would change, in the squalling barn,
Her back’s pale skin with a strop,
Then lay for me
In a bootlegger’s roasting car
With a string-triggered I2-gauge shotgun
To blast the breath from the air.
Not cut by the jagged windshields,
Through the acres of wrecks she came
With a wrench in her hand,
Through dust where the blacksnake dies
Of boredom, and the beetle knows
The compost has no more life.
Someone outside would have seen
The oldest car’s door inexplicably
Close from within:
I held her and held her and held her,
Convoyed at terrific speed
By the stalled, dreaming traffic around us,
So the blacksnake, stiff
With inaction, curved back
Into life, and hunted the mouse
With deadly overexcitement,
The beetles reclaimed their field
As we clung, glued together,
With the hooks of the seat springs
Working through to catch us red-handed
Amidst the gray breathless batting
That burst from the seat at our backs.
We left by separate doors
Into the changed, other bodies
Of cars, she down Cherrylog Road
And I to my motorcycle
Parked like the soul of the junkyard
Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,
Wringing the handlebar for speed,
Wild to be wreckage forever.

In Times of Trouble: Great Books When You Are Down

Hello everyone, yesterday the terrible news came out that celebrity chef and tv host Anthony Bourdain had passed away. It was only a few weeks ago I was writing about Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer Scott Hutchinson who had also passed away under duress. I’m immensely saddened by the loss of these people who came into our lives and shared a bit of themselves with us. The world can be hard and hurtful at times. Politics are a mess and people seem to be at each other’s throats over the most basic things. When the world seems extra heavy, there are a few good reads I like to take a time out with that always seem to brighten my mood and I’ll share them with you now.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut is the tale of a 71year old painter, named Rabo Karabekian living in a 19 bedroom home he inherited from his late wife. He lets a writer move in named Circe, who actually writes under a pen name and is quit famous and successful. She eventually convinces Rabo to write an autobiography detailing his long and eventful life. The book is full of funny and heartbreaking stories from the streets of San Francisco as a young immigrant boy, to the European theater of World War II. It ends up as a lifting tale that I believe ranks with Vonnegut’s best work.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris is one of my all time favorite books. Sedaris is a humorist and essayist whom I was lucky enough to go to a reading in Dayton, Ohio when my wife bought me tickets for my 40th birthday. Sedaris signed a book for me and asked about my grandfather’s watch I was wearing. He added it into his signature in my book.

The book is chocked full of hilarious observations that start out pretty funny, but Sedaris can flip on a dime and it can be quite poignant as well. His stories often revolve around his middle class up bring in North Carolina or his hitchhiking across the country. His funniest stuff comes from a lot of the crap jobs he had while living in Chicago and New York, plus his endless, but charming quibbles with his boyfriend Hugh. However in this book the last 1/3 is dedicated to his battle to quit smoking and moving to Japan for 3months to accomplish it. I also have this book on audio, read by the author and I’ve listened to it numerous times. It’s a great companion on long drives by yourself.

If you’ve seen any of my other posts on Mid-American-Culture you may have read a couple of the Robert Frost posts I’ve done. He’s hands down my favorite poet and when the world has beaten me down, I’ll often settle down with a book of his poetry and be taken away to days on the farm around New England, or walking along the old stone wall. Here’s his poem After Apple Picking;

After Apple-Picking

BY ROBERT FROST

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree

Toward heaven still,

And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill

Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight

I got from looking through a pane of glass

I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough

And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.

But I was well

Upon my way to sleep before it fell,

And I could tell

What form my dreaming was about to take.

Magnified apples appear and disappear,

Stem end and blossom end,

And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin

The rumbling sound

Of load on load of apples coming in.

For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

For all

That struck the earth,

No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,

Went surely to the cider-apple heap

As of no worth.

One can see what will trouble

This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.

Were he not gone,

The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his

Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,

Or just some human sleep.

Lastly Matt Fraction and David Aja had a spectacular run on Marvel’s Hawkeye where the title character and his alter ego Clint Barton battled countless Russian mob members and his own brand of depression. He reconnects with his brother Barney and has some help with his side kick Kate Bishop, AKA the other Hawkeye. Fraction delivers a tour de force character arc here and David Aja’s minimalist art is brilliant. I recommend this comic series to everyone I meet and I’ll suggest it to you as well. It’s always a great place to return too.

So there you go. Some great reads to dive into and get away from it all. But also, call your mom. Talk to your dad. Check on your friends, it’s a cold world sometimes and we could all use a hand. Don’t be ashamed of needing that hand. Someone can help you today and you return the favor tomorrow. It may sound cheesy but it works. Of course if you can’t find anyone else and you’ve reached your breaking point please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800- 273-8255. Take care everyone and keep up to date with more Mid-American-Culture.

The Miseducation of Ben Reilly Part 3

Marvel Comics would tease and tease Ben’s return for a decade. After lackluster sales of the 2nd Clone Saga, we appeared to be finished with the character, we had a chance but we didn’t support it. However we would have a Scarlet Spider return to comics with his own series. The big catch was that it was Kaine Parker in the role honoring the memory of good ole Ben Reilly.

I was prepared to hate this series but ended up loving it immensley. I don’t know if I just loved Spider-Man my whole life, so I enjoy variations of that character or what? This series would run for a solid 2 years and 25 issues. Ben Reilly hung over the series as Kaine tried to be a better person.

Ben Reilly seemingly was returning in this series. Kaine felt like he was being followed for a few days then suddenly in a rainstorm classic Scarlet Spider attacks him. He was confused and they fought, but it was actually Kraven the Hunter out for revenge for his role in bringing him back from the dead.

Eventually in the fall of 2016 we finally have Ben Reilly return from the great beyond. As a bad guy. Poor old Ben was scooped up by his original creator, the Jackal, Miles Warren. He regenerates him in a test tube and kills him and brings him back 26 times. Burns him alive, posions him. All kinds of horrible shit seeping out from Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. Well this eventually drives Ben Reilly insane and after the 26th rebirth, he kills Miles Warren and becomes a new Jackal. For whatever reason.

So Ben wants to use the Jackals cloning technique to end death… Or something. He’s even gonna bring back Uncle Ben until Peter convinces him otherwise. It’s a terrible story, one of Slott’s worst in his record setting run on Amazing Spider-Man. Eventually The whole Clone Conspiracy that Reilly Jackal cooked up implodes and he’s left alive, but with a jank ass clone body that was saved mid-deterioration.

Kinda looks like a generic Deadpool. Well he’s also still kinda crazy when Peter David takes over writing his new solo series, Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider. He has an Aunt May stand in named June and he talks to himself. He answers himself in the old school Scarlet Spider persona for good things and his recent Jackal persona for bad things. Not great. However he was supposed to get a kick ass new costume and it was previewed way ahead of the new book.

But a hand full of fans screamed their white hot hate for the look even befor it hit and Marvel and Peter David immediatly back peddled and assured those people the old blue hoodie would make a permanent return.

17 issues into the book and it’s not great but it’s Ben Reilly. Peter David has worked hard to clean up the hit job Dan Slott did on poor ole Ben. A big help was having Thano’s old girlfriend Death show up and help Ben get his soul straightened out.

She sets Ben on a true path of redemption. Death tells him that his soul was splintered by all the death he endured at the hands of Miles Warren. She heals his face, but whenever he does anything bad, the deteriorated look returns.

The series really took off when the Slingers arc happened. It was the book Ben finally deserved. Unfortunately after that we had some rough Dr. Strange crossover issues. One of my favorite bad guys, Mysterio is due this summer and that seems promising. The main problem Ben has now is his sales numbers. Marvel usually kills a series below 20,000 copies a month. Scarlet Spider has been around 16,000 lately. I’m hoping digital sales and subscribers like me are helping out the bottom line. We’ll just have to wait and see. Ben Reilly has survived way worse than cancellation before.

Thanks for reading Mid-American-Culture and also today is National Comic Book Day and Free Comic Day so if you are out and about give Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider a go and you may grow to love the Spidey-Clone as much as I do. See you next Saturday and until then, Make Mine Mid-American-Culture!

The Miseducation of Ben Reilly Part 2.

Happy Saturday to you all and thanks for checking out Mid-American-Culture. Today I’m gonna pick up from last week but first a correction, I falsely stated that Mark Bagley designed the Scarlet Spider outfit and a reader pointed out that it was actually Tom Lyle.

We left things last time with Ben dying at the hands of Norman Osborne, impaled on the Goblin Glider saving Peter Parker’s life. He aslo turned to dust showing that he was a clone after all.

So Peter and M.J. lose their baby and the comics try and move past the last 2 years of publication. It sucked to just see the whole thing disappear as if it never happened. I kept reading Spidey though because he was my character, and I’d always read him.

However Tom Defalco would soon launch an alternative future series called Spider-Girl and it would be the high school age daughter of Spider-Man, and guess what? She wore Ben Reilly’s Spidey costume and even referred to him as Uncle Ben.

This would be the first of many Ben teases Marvel would throw at us Clone Saga fans. Defalco would also introduce Ben’s own son Reilly Tyne, who with the help of the other clone Kaine, would become Dark Devil.l, a Ghost Rider/ Daredevil mashup. He was a pretty damn cool character that I would have enjoyed more of.

Now in this same series, that is essentially a part 2 to the world of the Clone Saga, eventually The Black Cat’s daughter shows up as a new Scarlet Spider and Peter shares a touching story with May about her Uncle Ben.

Its like Marvel wants to get away from the 90’s but also embrace them. Haha

Eventually, Tom Defalco would get Marvel to try a Clone Saga again, as it was originally intended, a short 6 month story and Ben survives through the end and sets out on his own. Sadly, it didn’t sell well and again forgotten after the initial 6 issues.

Im gonna leave you here at the end of the Spider-Girl era and post Clone Saga 2, but come back next week for the return of the Scarlet Spider and his own series! Have a great week.

The Miseducation of Ben Reilly Part 1.

It’s funny how you get to a certain age and for a brief moment you can hyper identify with music and literature, film and heroes real and fictional. At around 18 your life is changing and a person looks to make their own way in the world. For some it’s a journey of figuring out who you are and who you wanna be.

I have always been a massive comic book geek. I lived for the first 7-8 years of my life in a trailer park in Proctorville, Ohio. The trailer park was just off of State Route 7 and ran along the Ohio River. Well across the main drag of my trailer park was a little mom and pop convenience store called Holderby’s. I used to go to this store a lot with my folks and the deal was always that if I was good, which I always was, I’d get a quarter for the Ms. Pac-Man standup and a comic from the spinner rack. The time period here is the early 1980’s and Spider-Man was hands down my favorite character, still is for the most part.

After my folks had returned their soda bottles for change and I had fallen to the 4 bit ghost of the arcade game, we’d return home and just before bed one of my parents would read me my fresh new comic as a bed time story and show me the art as the story went along. Soon I’d fall asleep to dream about what is certainly Stan Lee’s most famous creation, Spidey and his friends.

Eventually when I was nearing the end of my High School years in the mid 90’s Marvel drops a bomb shell on it’s readers. The Peter Parker/ Spider-Man we’d been reading for years may not be the real thing. A clone of Parker’s created by his college professor, Miles Warren had returned.

The 1990’s was the most gimmicky time in the history of comics. All the heroes were either being killed off or changing into grimacing anti-heroes. Superman died, Batman had his back broken, Green Lantern was evil and called all the GL corps. Tony Stark was an evil teenage version of himself. Plus all the cover were holograms and bagged.

The gimmick was that a throw away clone character, who supposedly died at the end of a story in the 1970’s was actually alive and back in New York and he’d crossed paths with the original.

The Peter Parker clone would take the name Ben Reilly. Ben from Peter’s uncle, the Power and Responsibility, one and Reilly was Aunt May’s maiden name. After being back in NYC for a bit in a story called The Exile Returns Ben decides he’s gonna stay, he’d been living on the road for years always on the move. Partially because he didn’t feel like he was a real person and didn’t belong. There was also the fact that another failed Parker clone named Kaine was out to kill him. Comics right?

So Ben adopts the alias of the Scarlet Spider. It was a totally throw away costume designed by comics legend Mark Bagley. The outfit was made up of a plain red Spidey type outfit with a blue hoodie he bought at zoo gift shop. I gathered he felt like a cheap knock off so why not go with it?

So now the Scarlet Spider is making a place for himself in the world. This goes back to my original point. I was 16-17 at the time and I strongly identified with the character, I too was ready to go out into the world and find my own place. Plus Ben was super poor and worked in a coffee shop. I didn’t have a lot either and worked in a grocery store.

Well as it turned out the character was I initially super popular. He had beaten Venom, which Spider-Man never had. People really liked the character, and Marvel really liked money. So, it all gets amped up and the slide to Hell begins. Marvel gets the idea that maybe Been was the real Spider-Man the whole time! So in a story designed to last 6 months, we get drug out for over a year. The Peter we’ve followed for 20 years is married to M.J. Watson and he’s going insane or something. All to comfort the blow of the rug being pulled out from the feet of long time readers.

When Ben is revealed to by the real Spidey, comic fans lose their minds. It’s hate mail and boycotts. This was Marvel Pre- Disney ownership and money was a worry in the late 90’s. So marvel has to reverse course after a year of Ben as Spidey and Peter and M.J. off having a baby in Portland, Oregon.

The best way the editors decided was to bring back ole Norman Osborne, the original Green Goblin. He’d also been dead for quite some time. However the whole Clone Saga was simply a big gotcha to Peter.

The entire year plus story line known forever as The Clone Saga, would be wrapped up in 4 issues spread out over one month. The story was called Revaltions.

Marvel needed their corporate icon back to normal and it was deemed that Ben was out. All the way. 💀

Ben would die saving Peter from Norman’s Goblin Glider. He’d die thinking he was the real deal. It was sad.

It was also here that Pete and M.J. would lose the baby or it was kidnapped or something. It was all retconned away later any how. From here Ben Reilly would be forgotten for about 5 years then he was teased repeatedly for another decade plus. However we will get to that next Saturday in The Miseducation of Ben Reilly part 2. Thanks for reading and have a great week.

I Miss Sylvia Plath

Good morning everyone, in sticking with my Saturday Poem sharing I present my favorite Sylvia Plath poem, The Colossus. The poem was released in 1960 as part of a collection called The Colossus and Other Poems. The collection stands as the only selections of poetry Sylvia published before her death at age 30 in 1963.

The poem is full of wonderful imagery that was a hallmark of her work, she had a way of telling you something in her poem but also leaving it to the reader’s own interpretation. My favorite line is ” I crawl like an ant in mourning”

Sylvia was prolific in her short 30 years on the planet, I’d invite you to grab a cup of coffee and pull it close and enjoy this poem and then search out more of her work, she also published a novel, The Bell Jar that has a place among the best American literature. Have a great day and keep reading.

The Colossus

I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.

Stopping for Death with Emily D.

Good Saturday to you all, today I’ll share another of my favorite poems with you. It’s Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson. This poem was published in 1890 after Emily’s death. She was not a known poet in her life time, she came for a very wealthy family that were apparent pillars of the community. Emily was often thought of as ecentric and probably a little weird which makes you love her even more. She was known to wear mostly white and keep to herself and write. As she grew older she about became a complete recluse and rarely left her room. When she died her younger sister found 1800 poems that Emily had written. She was first published posthumously in 1890 by some acquaintances, although grossly over edited from the original work. Emily didn’t title her poems, and her puncuation and sentence structure was wild and free roaming. Her early publishers didn’t trust her instinct and I assume they mansplaned editing and poetry and made some cash selling bastardized, but still great poetry. Scholar Thomas Johnson would find and return Dickinson’s work to her original writing and publish a collection as she intended in 1955.

Here is my favorite Emily Dickinson poem as she intended, Number 479.

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –