On “A Lone Star Stomachache” (#27)

This was the first of our poems to address a whole state rather than a city.

On August 09. 2009, John began with the following words:

I haven’t figured out which city to use yet.  I started with an eating contest and the idea of bigness.

A Mess in Texas

A mound of brisket like a Boot Hill midden buries the platter before
the judge.  He plows through it, tilling the beef and letting the barbecue
sauce ride high on his face, sowing flecks on a brow furrowed by

Martin replied on the 15th with changes to the first stanza, three more lines, and permission to alter his contribution if it wasn’t up to snuff.

John introduced the subthemes of writing and editing in the third stanza, which Martin continued in the fourth. By the time the poem had seven stanzas, accumulating even more themes, John commented, “We’re cooking up a veritable bouillabaisse of thematic concerns: eating contests, consumption, literature/editing, and now politics and the war in Afghanistan.  I hope the flavors marry.”

Martin tried to bring everything together in the eighth stanza, along with changing the title to “The Lone Star Supper Club.” John didn’t care for the change, noting:

I need to get used to the new title.  I don’t quite get it yet.  Originally, I was riffing off of the “Don’t Mess With Texas” license-plate motto.

I tried to add a thematicky coda.

Oddly, I think the whole thing has become about Dubya’s gluttonous doppelganger, the metaphorically cannibalistic war lust replaced with a more literal hunger.  Everything seems to hang together pretty well around that possible reading.

I like that you added the guy’s father in there, perhaps alluding to GWB wanting to please his daddy.

Martin responded:

Interesting poem – we can keep thinking about title…how about….

Mess with Texas

Gluttony in Galveston

Lone Star Sizzle

Hungry in Houston

Texas One Step

John replied:

It might be better to step away from specific cities in this one’s title.  Besides, I already included a pun on Crawford in the second-to-last line.

I vote for Mess with Texas, Texas One Step, or A Lone Star Stomachache

Meanwhile, the poem had grown to nine stanzas. Martin seconded the title “A Lone Star Stomachache” and revised the last few lines, omitting the Crawford, TX pun along the way. Both of us continued tweaking lines and words until August 22, when we decided the poem was finished.

“A Lone Star Stomachache” first appeared in Splash of Red (December 14, 2009). It is the twenty-seventh poem in the final sequence of Poets’ Guide to America.

About poetsguide

A former altar boy and a former U.S. Army interrogator, respectively, John F. Buckley and Martin Ott were born and raised in Michigan, meeting each other at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor before separately migrating to California in the early 1990s to attend graduate schools, their friendship evolving into a writing collaboration – what they refer to as poetic volleyball. They both currently live in Southern California, John with his wife, Martin with his wife and two children. John teaches English composition at several local colleges, while Martin works as a marketing strategist for a global company. John still affects a strange piety; Martin still finds himself asking a lot of questions. Individually and together, their writing has appeared in over 150 periodicals and anthologies, garnering three Pushcart Prize nominations for Martin’s poems “India Ivy” and “When Bridges Fall” (available in his collection Children of Interrogation, which has been a finalist or semi-finalist in eighteen poetry prizes) and John’s “Poem for Christy’s Daughter” (available in his collection Kinks in the Hose). Martin has also optioned three screenplays. His chapbook Misery Loves was published on Red Dancefloor Press. John’s chapbook Breach Birth was published on Propaganda Press.
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