Bluebonnets, Boots and Buffalo Bones
by Sheryl L. Nelms
Laughing Cactus Press

"Cumulus Clouds

a gallon of

country cream

into stiff

from the beater

into dollops
across the blue oilcloth"

In this collection of 93 poems, Nelms explores the geography, history, and present of the Texas landscape and its inhabitants.

The treatment of nature in Nelms' poetry is often whimsical, as in the poem "Cumulus Clouds," quoted above. In "Meteorite Showers," the whimsy becomes lyrical in the lines, "the glistened spatter/of shattered/moons/ripples across the black/velvet of/Texas/sky." With "Dry Hole Blues," Nelms reveals another side to the human relationship with nature, describing the landscape as "gentle rolling/hills pricked/with oil/rigs." Her themes of nature, geography, history, and humans are never far apart.

Nelms' delving into the past is haunting. In "Remember Goliad," she tells of the last hours of three hundred forty-two men who surrendered to General Santa Anna, "the Prince of Butchers," and were executed "into the fiery flintlock finale/with any survivors sabered/then roasted in/bonfire." Equally evocative is her poem, "Texas Trawl," where "seven/buzzards weave/concentric/circles/over/the buffalo/bones/below."

Combined, these and the other historically set poems pay homage to a past that is bloody and desolate, but Nelms also captures warmth and tradition in poems like "Grandma's Sunbonnet Quilt," with images like "through three generations/those threads have/come to spread/into my life."

Woven into the fabric of serious reflection are many light-hearted and humorous poems, like "Outhouse Blues," "Aunt Emma Collected Teeth," and "horned toad." In "Their Combs Turn Red in the Spring," Nelms perfectly balances humor and insight when she writes, "you see the girls/.... working on their tans/and the guys/just hangin' around/lookin'/and I think of them stud roosters/Mom used to keep."

It is Nelms' combination of whimsical lyricism, haunting imagery, and humor that make Bluebonnets, Boots and Buffalo Bones a well-rounded and thought-provoking look at what it means to be part of the Texan tradition.

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