An I-40 Road Song
Rusting roof top words invite us
to change course and See Rock City.
On the radio, “American Pie” crashes into static.
I’m on my back in the back,
watching the traffic of tree branches pass.
Mom tells Dad to slow.
I-40 is an infinite list of options
that we won’t choose:
we will not stop for Casey Jones Village,
will not veer up highway 641 to catch
the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm.
We drive on by.
Tourist traps, Dad whispers, seemingly to himself.
It’s been too long since Mom has seen her Mom—
moms need their moms too, it seems
so we go on
through last night’s rain,
through Appalachian oaks,
through smoke-like fog,
through towns with crooked sheriffs
and newly constructed revival tents
through the silence between us
Finally, we arrive,
and after cursory greetings
and “you’re getting so talls,”
I find myself staring at the popcorn ceiling
from my grandmother’s couch,
eyes searching for passing trees
and signs for Hidden Hollow or The Mule
on the Cliff — Finding a shelf of unread books.
The Statue of Robert E. Lee Contemplates his Removal
When I see the forgotten,
the dirty ones pushing stolen
carts, their fingerless wool
gloves gripping tight to all
they have left, I find myself
thinking back to those
rat boiling winters
when supplies were short,
the mud was thick
and the men wanted to battle
only to pillage
Standing atop this pedestal
overlooking my namesake park,
I’ve seen more than one mugging.
More than one poet penning metaphors
in a comp book. Protests, wedding ceremonies,
to me it all looked like
death and sounded like the
burning howls that have haunted
me since the Wilderness. Death
didn’t die in the fields of Slaughter Pen Farm
or the trenches of Richmond. It followed me
here. Just last week
I saw a car careen
and kill a child. The driver ran
around the wreck screaming,
it was all my fault! It was all
my fault. As if that chant
could change the choice.
I said the same incantation
at Gettysburg but learned
the dead stayed dead
and the dying kept dying.
I offered to step down,
tender my resignation
only to be refused so I
resigned myself to more
and more and I got so
Goddamn weary of it all.
Take me down.
For the love of God.
Take me down.
The work of Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Scott McDaniel has been featured in Mad Swirl, Deep South Magazine, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Common Ground Review and The New Guard. He has read throughout his home state of Arkansas as well as Manhattan and Castletownroche, Ireland. Scott began writing poetry at an early age and was encouraged to do so by his cousin, award-winning inaugural poet Miller Williams. He lives and works in his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas; a city outside of Memphis that is highly influenced by the culture of the Mississippi Delta. His writings reflect the unique hues, quirks and broken promises of the modern south.