Arkansas

In 1923, Arkansas established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Jo McDougall, who was appointed to a four-year term in 2018. McDougall is the author of several poetry collections, including The Undiscovered Room (Tavern Books, 2016). She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Personals

Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.

Hot Springs

after Robert Francis’s “Silent Poem”

 

rain storm   rock pore   flow path   earth crust
thrust fault   drip slope   trough dam   blue ooze

tile floor   stained glass   sitz bath   rust stain
sun porch   deck chair   sky light   gas lamp

foot bridge   leaf twitch   dirt trail   red oak
white tail   hoof prints   moss stump   wood thrush

chert flake   clay shard   pit mine   whet stone
knife blade   green gorge  creek mud   blue tent

fire ring   wood smoke   sign post   steep road
store front   plate glass   stone arch   tile roof

street light   pump house   brick walk   steam grate
hot wisp   guard rail   foot soak   spa town

Abandoned Block Factory, Arkansas

All that is left
unaccounted for:
elegance married
to rust. On the roof, rain
dwelling in the corrugations.
Some slats vanished
altogether, a blankness
giving way to sky. But the eaves
hold in perfect vertices,
refuse to abandon
their beauty, hard-earned.
High on the yellow silo,
the conveyor’s lattice
is as finely wrought
as a string instrument’s
struts and braces: precision
in every coordinate
and all across the godlike slant
from tower to the ground.
There would be no time at all
if not for moss swelling
in concrete cracks,
the guard rails papered
by lichen. If not for the rest
of the world, the silence
it attempts to punctuate:
crow caw. Engine roar.
Horns of every pitch
and color. The train’s
shuddering Doppler,
crossing us now—as always—
in near-perfect intervals. Even
though there is no tangible
good to stop for,
nothing whole to take away.