Sunday, July 17, 2011


Every town grows slowly from the strange,
from a seed of harsh cells and owling nights.
In south Arkansas a town was peddler born --
a little trading post amid pines and Quapaws.
Sweating days and untongued bargaining
coiled into early years, into eyes like flint.

Every town has many years of frost and rain.
The congealing of a populace seems algorithmic.

How bewildering and good when wild visions come!
When they graze the surface of a coming town.
When a renegade imagination glances sideways
to dwell on faces long dead and stern women!

Urgent sex must have found convenient moments
to bring balm for lives poised on the fringe of fevers.
Brutal hours of labor -- felling trees and giving birth.
A town also born and human beings becoming neighbors.
Until the complex rhythms of gestures and superstitions
and weathers and deaths and dancing led to community.

Decades roll through fist fights, gambling, and a war.
Until oil is struck and the sky trembles over new people.
A square surrounds the merciless court house of judges.
Banks and shops rise on progress like opium-walled mirages.
And dark greenbacks of 1925 are magical with engraving.
The smells inside buildings are so fragrant with commerce.

Human beings move surely in hats and fashionable certanties
of what a day means and of what an unseen god expects.

A mile and time away a refinery blasts fumes and nightmares
for the boy who has seen it there and whose belly is filled by it.
Wraiths come at night from derrick woods tocking and conspiring,
making the days dubious and all the rooted people seem too solid.

And when the boy has become a twisting mass of years,
he almost smiles because he will never escape the strange.

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