Texas

In 1993, Texas established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Carrie Fountain, who was appointed to a one-year term in 2019. Fountain is the author of two poetry collections, including Burn Lake (Random House, 2010), and Instant Winner (Random House, 2014).

In 2019, Leslie Contreras Schwartz was named poet laureate of Houston, Texas. Schwartz 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.

In 2018, Edward Vidaurre was named poet laureate of McAllen, Texas. Vidaurre will serve a two-year term.

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Texas poet laureaute
Carrie Fountain

Carrie Fountain is the author Instant Winner (Penguin Books, 2014) and Burn Lake (Penguin Books, 2010), selected for the National Poetry Series. She is the writer-in-residence at St. Edward’s University and the host of KUT’s This Is Just to Say. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Carrie Fountain

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Big Bend National Park Says No to All Walls

Big Bend has been here, been here. Shouldn’t it have a say?
Call the mountains a wall if you must, (the river has never been a wall),
leavened air soaking equally into all, could this be the home
we ache for? Silent light bathing cliff faces, dunes altering
in darkness, stones speaking low to one another, border secrets,
notes so rooted you may never be lonely the same ways again.
Big bend in thinking—why did you dream you needed so much?
Water, one small pack. Once I lay on my back on a concrete table
the whole day and read a book. A whole book, and it was long.
The day I continue to feast on.
Stones sifting a gospel of patience and dust,
no one exalted beyond a perfect parched cliff,
no one waiting for anything you do or don’t do.
Santa Elena, South Rim, once a woman knew what everything here
was named for, Hallie Stillwell brimming with stories,
her hat still snaps in the wind. You will not find
a prime minister in Big Bend, a president, or even a candidate,
beyond the lion, the javelina, the eagle lighting on its nest.

The Waltz We Were Born For

I never knew them all, just hummed
and thrummed my fingers with the radio,
driving five hundred miles to Austin.
Her arms held all the songs I needed.
Our boots kept time with fiddles
and the charming sobs of blondes,

the whine of steel guitars
sliding us down in deer-hide chairs
when jukebox music was over.
Sad music's on my mind tonight
in a jet high over Dallas, earphones
on channel five. A lonely singer,

dead, comes back to beg me,
swearing in my ears she's mine,
rhymes set to music that make
her lies seem true. She's gone
and others like her, leaving their songs
to haunt us. Letting down through clouds

I know who I'll find waiting at the gate,
the same woman faithful to my arms
as she was those nights in Austin
when the world seemed like a jukebox,
our boots able to dance forever,
our pockets full of coins.

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.