So much depends upon a red tractor seat
jutting from day-lilies, the old iron pump
preserved in black Rust-oleum. I stop, adjust
my smile and ball-cap both to a friendly tilt,
then climb front steps past scarecrow dolls,
Willkommen stencils from Hobby Lobby.
To the west, I see our village edge fall off
toward the nearby farms, cornfields aglow,
America set in amber: another hottest-ever
late October, unnerving me but not my neighbors.
They emerge ready to fend me off, arms folded
like umpires. Gothically polite, they’d rather not
reveal which side they’re on.
Two hunters in blaze orange
fold a deer stand into a pickup. One
tilts his head to hear my pitch, then turns
and spits rebuttal. A pregnant mom
wipes her toddler’s nose and vows she’ll vote
against that lying bitch and her liberal crowd.
These are the tidy streets my children walked
to school. We led the 4-H pledge at the park,
finger-waved from the wheel on the two-lane
into town. I say healthcare, clean water, fumbling
for a grin or nod toward the decent life we share,
but that’s all lost in the dam-burst:
bile pounds and boils in empty living rooms,
televisions like open hydrants.
I pass the old stone church we don’t attend,
the weed-filled lot where the bar burned down.
Probably time to pack it in—on cue,
clouds darken and flash.
From a front porch
up the block, a concrete barefoot boy fishes
for the past in white gravel, tiny flags flap
from geranium pots, and here I come with
my glossy photos of the damn money-spenders,
like some yappy little dog that sniffs the rug
over the trapdoor and rats out its family,
tail thumping. I don’t know any better
either: I just keep talking.
Scott Lowery is a poet, musician and retired educator, recently relocated to Milwaukee from rural Minnesota. His poems appear currently in Nimrod, River Styx, Ocotillo Review, Bramble, and RockPaperPoem, and a new chapbook, Mutual Life (Finishing Line), comes out in August 2023. Find more, including workshops with young poets, at www.scottlowery.com.