Texas

In 1993, Texas established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Jenny Browne, who was appointed to a one-year term in 2017. Browne is the author of three poetry collections, including Dear Stranger (University of Tampa Press, 2013).

In 2017, Deborah Mouton was named poet laureate of Houston, Texas. Mouton will serve a two-year term.

In 2018, Octavio Quintanilla was named poet laureate of San Antonio, Texas. Quintanilla will serve a two-year term.

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Heart

Old fang-in-the-boot trick. Five-chambered
asp. Pit organ and puff adder. Can live
in any medium save ice. Charmed by the flute
or the first thunderstorm in spring, drowsy
heart stirs from the cistern, the hibernaculum,
the wintering den of stars. Smells like the cucumber
served chilled on chipped Blue Willow. Her garden
of clings, sugars, snaps, and strings. Her creamy breasts
we called pillows and her bird legs and fat fingers
covered with diamonds from the mines in Africa.

The smell of cucumber.... Her mystery roses....

Heading out Bandera to picnic and pick corn,
the light so expert that for miles
you can tell a turkey vulture
from a hawk by the quiver in the wing.
Born on April Fools’, died on Ground Hog’s,
he pulls over not to piss but to blow away
any diamondback unlucky enough to be
on the road between San Antonio and Cotulla.

Squinting from the back of the pickup
into chrome and sun and shotgun confection,
my five boy cousins who love me more
than all of Texas and drink my spit
from a bottle of Big Red on a regular basis
know what the bejeweled and the gun-loading
have long since forgotten. And that is:
Snakes don’t die. They just play dead. The heart
exposed to so many scrapes, bruises, burns,
and bites sheds its skin, sprouts wings and fl ies,
becomes the two-for-one sparkler on
the Fourth of July, becomes what’s slung between
azure and cornfield: the horizon.

If you don't believe it
place your right hand on it
from the Pledge
like you've been taught.
 
Feel the hearing so deep. Limbless
and near limbless. Prefers the ambush 
to the hunt. Sets a trap, picks a spot,
begins the vigil. Resorts at times to bluff
and temper. Swallows victims whole.
Tastes like chicken. Tastes like
hope, memory, forgiveness. 

Jim

You looked Texas today
road hard, scrubbed brush, blown tires
gasoline islands

But later California returned—fortune’s poster child
radiating. Truck full of gas,
cheap camera in the glove compartment
stuffed toys on the dashboard,
beads on the steering wheel,
a pretty girl’s picture—fatherly devotion.

What is lost when love ceases
is the power to forget

the early sweetness, the late bitter
talk, the longing for renewal—we all want
Spring, but

Spring does not want us.

Persevere, the skies murmur. Persevere
you weeping poets. You funny beasts.
Hopeful and hurting breathing dragons’

magic fire. Dry seasons last much too long
which is why deserts are vast. Floods don’t help,
but days of chilly showers make for blossoms pink,
blue, violet. A soft evasion.

Drink from the lake’s glacial cup. Hope for better
winters.

Migrant

Sunday takes us to the relic-boxes of small Texas towns,
their shops of Sears and Roebuck
            sewing machine stands,
bordello bedframes, and scrap-metal lawn art: a butterfly
stakes a Spartan garden
            with pollen rust.
Learning the hard way not to touch even the brass panel
of a swinging entrance
            door to cold beer
a rose catheterizing a vase, bloom achieved. None of these
wheel-hoops made overseas,
            none of the wind bearing
signals toward receivers. "What are you, unremember-prone?"
But as a clock-spring's
            reincarnated in
an obnoxious doorknob, squint-squeal, a drawer is shaking out
again its rubber bands,
            nails, batteries, twists,
razor blades, shoelaces, coupons, q-tips, to jerry-rig the butterfly
a sunflower. That's to say
            the armored flower
these Sabbath-shut antique shops show me in mirrors.
With a castle of black iron,
            very Louise Nevelson,
gears and ratchets and half-moon windows in turrets
buffered by a wall of copper beech,
            a moat of black mondo grass
and borders of purple wandering jew. If I thread the screw
in that will hold the weight
            of this world upon the wall,
the mirrors of the antique shops and the antique shops themselves
protest that we're not unpacked.
            That we may not be
before the buzzards sink, empty ink cartridges
of those translucent claws.
            Not fully.