Wythe County in July

By DOLORES HAYDEN

Stare…

          —Walker Evans’ advice to young artists

So here’s a board-and-batten house—
a wall of planks with ragged ends
behind the windows’ splitting sills—

and here five siblings form a row
straggling across the wooden porch.
The boy frowns down and looks away,

his sisters pose for me, the tallest
raises her arm, juts her left hip,
hooks her bare toes over the edge.

Two first-grade girls, gap-toothed, grin wide,
and one, her elbows high, leans right
against the smallest child, hair chopped

in crooked bangs, barefoot, sack dress.
Say nine, twelve, six, six, and three?
(It will be years before I frame

family snapshots of my own.)
Road dust rolls red as I size up
more farms, more faded county seats

with barbershops, small luncheonettes,
thrift shops that sell used shoes, old clothes,
worn pots and pans. I shoot them all

as if I rode with Walker Evans
in ninety-eight degrees. At night
I wonder how what’s saved was spared,

what’s razed was damned to disappear:
who held the straightedge, drew the lines,
called out neglect or preservation?

Wythe County in July—Stare.
Day after day. It is the way
to educate your eye and more.

Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop.
August, I turn back north toward home
still steering down those rural roads,

arriving at that weathered house.
No one has heard of Walmart yet,
though down in Rogers, Arkansas,

Sam Walton’s launched his Discount City.
Scouting locations in his plane,
he aims to move into Missouri,

he plans to expand in Oklahoma,
aims to discount the material
remains of small towns everywhere.

 

[Purchase Issue 12 here.]

Dolores Hayden is the author of two poetry collections, American Yard and Nymph, Dun, and Spinner. Recent poems appear in Poetry, Raritan, Shenandoah, Ecotone, and Architrave. She is a professor at Yale and author of The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. Her website is www.DoloresHayden.com.

 

Wythe County in July

Related Posts

Recife, Brazil

Translation: Poems by Lara Solórzano Damasceno

LARA SOLÓRZANO DAMASCENO
Nosotras, who for millennia have steered warships, / sailing through seas made invisible. / Nosotras, who walked barefoot through valleys of stinging nettle, had our name ripped from the book of history / our biography from the scientific treatises

Ice fishing

June 2021 Poetry Feature

CORRIE WILLIAMSON
You lamented the absence of a human sound for longing, / like the loon has, like the wolf. I think of you reading / to your donkey the day he died, the passage where Odysseus / kisses the soil, how the beast moved away from you, / stood quietly in the clover, then returned...

Kentucky farmland

64-West & KY State Fair

D.S. WALDMAN
And how, / if we keep going, pushing ourselves farther / from ourselves, we’d see, eventually, the blankness / we were one day born into. / I forget what you / told me after—I think it had something to do / with loneliness.