Travis Stephens : Poetry : November 2019

My Southern Legitimacy is that I used to work towboats out of exotic ports such as Fouchon and Houma. There I developed a lifelong thirst for sweet tea and gumbo done right. If that isn’t enough legitimacy, I understand. Not everyone can be genuine Southern.

Three Poems


has become apartments
voices and laughter
in another room

mail pile by the door.
a spring clip to collect
rent checks plus a
marker message in
three-inch letters:

a pay phone
perhaps the last pay phone
in Seattle.
today I answered it:
“almost. John”
“Put Jim on.”
“I don’t know any Jim.”
“Everyone knows Jim.”

“is this a wrong number?
how about number seven?
I like seven
or nine and a half.”

“that’s how long we were
married, just couldn’t
make that second digit
speaking of which, there is
one she left me

middle one, you guessed it
ha ha, pretty funny now
but not at the time”

“You sound like Jim.”



I am told that the Fire Marshal requires a permit for a flamethrower.
Why do I need a permit?
Because nothing clears
weeds off the backlot like a flamethrower.
Because nothing says stay the fuck off my lawn
like a flamethrower.

I know a guy can build you a ‘thrower out of household parts,
stuff you can buy at Home Depot,
I saw it on YouTube.
You can even trick out your flamethrower;
tactical flamethrower,
with a laser sight and
painted in woodland camo.
I love my little flamethrower.
Going to keep one under the bed, one for parts,
and one just for the hell of it.



Rust is nothing.
I lost my wheel walls and
all the tinny sheet steel behind
my front tires without missing a mile.
Road salt just makes the time go faster.
Oil pools are hereditary.
I got mine from my first owner;
old gasket gone bad,
overhaul overdue.
They say the wheels go first.
Like Mantle, or Gail Sayers,
my tires are not dependable.
This battery? My third.
I sit beneath this cypress like winter,
like summer gone wild in the grass.
Chigger bait.
Razor grass tickles my radiator.
Mice neck in the back seat.
But I can wait here, fading in color,
and not miss a thing.
The end or the beginning
comes with either a tow truck
or a bucket of gas.
You choose.
Let’s take a ride.