R. A. Allen : Poetry: Nov 2021

Southern Legitimacy Statement: With the exception of four years in Starkville, Mississippi and short stretch in Lexington, Kentucky, I have lived my life in Memphis, Tennessee, which is actually more Arkansan and Mississippian than Tennesseean. It’s a city of light, sound, oak trees, and give and take.

We’ve Been Places

Don’t think a battered canoe full of rainwater can’t feel
its owner’s wistfulness every time he comes out to feed
the dogs, picking his way between engine blocks
and plumbing parts. Not that such a man would ever wear
a word like “wistful,” this outdoorsman’s man, stoic veteran 
of America right or wrong, Bourbon-tipping packrat of items
still useful, neighborhood fixer of bikes and lawnmowers,  

Mirrored in the surface of the catch basin I’ve lately become,
he sees not our backyard’s treetops but the heraldic archways
that graced our journeys on the Big Piney and the Upper Wolf
and down all three forks of the Forkéd Deer. We’ve been places.

These excursions were no hobby. He thought hobbies were a type of 
fidgeting for people of limited imagination. They weren’t recreation, 
which was toys marketed by corporations; they weren’t relaxation,
which was an antidepressant for the upper-middle class. And not mere
fun, either. Fun was for little children. He’d never been a child.

Everything was a goal, a pursuit, a trophy to be mounted in a den
that he’d paneled himself. What counted was the doing, He couldn’t stop
moving. He was Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, the first man on Mars.

After his rads, he could no longer wrestle me atop the station wagon. 
Buying a trailer would have been defeatism. So this cluttered backyard
will be my last mooring, where, before that trip to the dump, 
I’ll serve as a water bowl for the dogs, a bath for the birds,
and, for him, a symbol of himself. We still have places to go—
just not together