by John Dos Passos Coggin

In Virginia’s Northern Neck, locals like their news well-seasoned —
truth plus a heaping tablespoon of myth. Stories
greased the long workday at scabby jobs
gutting fish, shucking oysters, and cutting lumber.

Nobody told it with salt, sugar, and a smile like Calvin.

Black snakes on the ambush, ensnarling his few idle hours
in nightmares. Deer hunters trespassing my family’s land
with the stealth of an outboard motor. Sally Bell the beagle
barking her tender soprano then dancing for bacon bits.

His new riffs stuck like molasses boiling in the summer sun,
always boasting the peerless spice of whimsy. Telling
and retelling distilled his tales to fine sipping rum.
Doggerel on Monday became epic by Friday.

Calvin nearly put the newspapers out of business.
Every fisher, hunter, farmer, and sawyer honored
Calvin’s ritual visit. His storytelling commissary.
The congregation of bolts he called his truck
met every acre of pine, oyster shell, and brick.

Once there was a runaway pig in the Northern Neck
named Frank Sinatra because he “had it his way.”

Calvin saw Elysium in such scenes.
By God, this country raised a Homer.

John Dos Passos Coggin is a writer based in Alexandria, Virginia. His poetry has appeared in Pangyrus, Cathexis Northwest Press, and The Blue Mountain Review. His nonfiction has appeared in The American Scholar, Tampa Bay Times, and The Baltimore Sun. He also co-manages the John Dos Passos literary estate and serves on the advisory board of the John Dos Passos Society.