in that shotgun shack
we could hear the thunder marching through the hills
as regiments of ants danced across the floor

cigarette smoke so heavy the air was like cardboard
the sour alcoholic wheezing of a steel guitar
high on the wall a Morse code of bullet holes
recently plastered over
but I got the message

I watched her shadow fall across the room
like a black curtain
the tin roof creaked
trigger finger thumping a walking bass line
leak from a rusty pipe
bleeding orange down the sheetrock

she walked in, time ran out
her heels clicking on the floor
like a gunfighter spinning the cylinder in his blue steel
I knew she wanted to talk
put this thing between us to rest

we pretended none of this mattered
actually, what she said was
it’s like
you never existed
finally one of us up & left
stains on the wall like brains splattered

[End of this chapter. More to come. I realize I said there was only one more, but I’m parceling them out slowly. For other chapters of RED DIRT CHRONICLES, see Red Dirt #1Red Dirt #2, Red Dirt #3, and Red Dirt #4. For better quality poetry, you might try Michael Ondaatje or Anne Carson. Or maybe you like REO Speedwagon. I can’t help you there.]


I heard this one on Writers Almanac yesterday.

Naming the Baby

by Faith Shearin

When you are dreaming of the name
you are also dreaming of who they
might be. They are invented in darkness —
under cloak of skin — and, for the better
part of a year, are a swelling
or a set of symptoms. The name
books are like a box of chocolates
and when you open them you see
how many kinds there really are.
There are names of people you
have known and disliked and names
that make the wrong sounds and names
that suggest your child will be
like everyone else’s. There are names
that turn your child into a character
in a novel and names that recall
the time when your great grandmother
was young. Naming the baby is a way
of dreaming about a creature who is
almost but not quite. It is a way of
imagining the soul of a person you
are making but have not made.
The name is the first way you see
the baby: their title, the syllables
that conjure a shape from the lantern.

“Naming the Baby” by Faith Shearin from The Empty House. © Word Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Host Garrison Keilor also had a cool line from Walt Whitman which I had never heard before, but instead of that one I’ll close with some Raymond Chandler: “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

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