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

blankets.

 

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,

artists, rapes…

 

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.

 

 

Scott McDaniel

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.

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