Peachtree Ballroom

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“Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlan-ta,
Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlanta some-a-these days
(Hallelujah)”

Ever’one I ever knew in Atlanta moved back to their
Southern hometowns. The city rings hollow of
Olympic days, obstinate Underground Atlanta
refusing to rejuvenate, always wearing its
party hat with a grimace.

Peachtree Ballroom, Ramada Plaza. Cracked
paint, ants in the elevators, hasn’t seen a fix
since 1996. Homeless passed out on the brick
sidewalk under sculptures evoking torches.
How much you chargin’? Sweet baby Jesus.
My name is Morgan, but it ain’t JP.

“You ask the judge to treat you well,
you offer a hundred dollars and he’ll send you to
Atlanta”

We watch you, our hope, our torch.
Atlanta. Who else would never understand.
It ain’t a good day. Hell, might not even be the worst.
But it’s good to get to know you again.
The Peachtree Ballroom with its dull brown
carpet, plastic dividing walls all pulled back,
stains and all. Alone in the ballroom,
alone on the roof, alone in Turner Field,
alone in the heart of Georgia. We’ll talk about
the I-85 collapse and why no one will use
MARTA. It’s a big empty ballroom today.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

“Went up on the Kennesaw Mountain
Gave my horn a blow,
Prettiest girl in Atlanter,
came a knockin’ at my do’…”

Dreams About Women, IV

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In this dream I died like my mother.
Lost control of the car.
Felt that weightless instant.
Stomach rising.
Saw it coming.
That long practiced moment.
That slow collision.
Lucid instant.
Knowing the next thing will be pain.

In this dream I died like my mother.
The slow collision of lifetimes
was around the bend in that dark road.
That I did not see.
I did not see the road I left behind.
I did not make it home that night.
I did not live anymore.
I did not see it coming.
I did not know pain.

The final instant is ambiguous.
Private, meaningless captivity of an instant.
And did they find me with Creedence
Clearwater still playing, suffocated in my
ribs and blood in the thick forested culvert
dripping humidity from the night before?
What came out to fill the road?
A Sweetgum ball. A feral peacock.
Squirrels stealing acorns from squirrels,
big trees grown from other, forgotten acorns.
And there I would be, dead.
Florida. Morning. After.

Dead. Dead, you say?
Why, my mother was dead.
I suppose that makes me
…half-dead?

A lively country road at the dewy dawn.

A Georgia Baby

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A Georgia baby’s a good thang
but she wun’t ’bout ta truly b’lieve it
she looked around with the innocence of
not knowing how the world works when you
precisely know how the world works but you
are tubin’ down the river in an’ ol’ tire
with her round stomach centered spinning
whitest legs dangling, her toenails pulled
to the wicks, battery acid burns, tattoo
of a perdy lil’ thang butter- dragon-
fly fly fly fly it takes a village
A Georgia baby’s a good thang
her mouth formed a silent scream in
order to blindly locate the straw on the
Baja Blast as she looked at a man and a man
and another. Her companion said it,
“that’s why no one in their thirties
should have babies. Yer fine, sugar.
We need mommas like you. And besides,
a Georgia baby’s a good thang.”

Groucho Said It Best

you could be mistaking swollen catfish for
deflated football, commiserating about
Groucho Marx in a hot Texas border town

if the evens go north to south
and the odds go east to west
then I-2 is the end of the road

sits a big fat catfish dryin’ in the scrub
lookin’ just so like you could’a set ‘im
down in the water an’ he’d’a swam away

kickin’ up corn husks amid grasshoppers
on the frontage road with trailers draped
with sheriff candidates in tan galon hats

as Mendez Mobile Trailer Washout truck
circles the self-storage parking lot swish
swishin’ agua in the tank shimmers in the

eyes of parched truckers commiserating about Groucho: “here’s to our girlfriends and wives
… may they never find out about each other”

if the evens go north to swish swish swish
and the odds go east to west swish swish
then there will never be anything past I-2

35 North: Dallas Texas. Dollars Taxes.
Groucho said it best: littering tamale husks
plastic wrappers and catfish alike. whatever

it is
I’m against
it

Devil’s Tramping Ground

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You’d suppose you’d be alarmed.
If shadowy figures stood around you when you opened your eyes
you’d suppose you’d be alarmed. Not us, headin’ back East. Dusk
lulls us by its familiar mass, stern and menacing tribute of
richness, the black from the obscurity placed in our eyes at birth,
our eyes we close against the prowling, our causes are in surplus,
our encounters in excess, and this discomforts us, seeing our
impulses toward reverent rest here.

In midst of shadow. Dark inexpressive forest,
it is them, encircled, I mean, they’re there but we’ve never seen
nor decrypted a face among them. Sleep of the sacrifice, stroke
us in the cradle of the residence, gingerly loving like a thing
worth dropping into the dismal abyss, viscerally worth smothering,
feed the predatory night the domesticating suffocation of babies,
whose seconds’ horror sight of mothers, a lifetime of recognition
that what took it was what takes and takes again when the statures
grow over you, place hands upon

the dead or merely sleeping. What
totems, what fetishes, dropped into the treeline long ago and far
beyond recovery, depth of awe, unknowing of echoes, cannot bring
us into us. Cannot bring us into us. Cannot bring us into us. Us,
are we decent? Are we a pleasant surprise of the halfway awaited
decents? Stern, the silent trees. Are we as unheeding advice of
the watershed where even the decent may cause incalculable harm
if shadowy figures stood around you when you opened your eyes?
You’d suppose you’d be alarmed.

Slightly blushing, from humidity, as well,
we understand we are one in the same the creatures that dreamed
enveloped in treelines on continents of undersides where hands
were bred to cover vision for practice and take life to save it
and in Chatham County, North Carolina, there is a place called
the Devil’s Tramping Ground where nothing will grow but you
could cut through the darkness to go right to the light with
the Devil’s walking stick. There.

What plans might y’all roast
when the treetops have faces.
But you turn away from them.
And observing your sleep, evil
treads ’round in a circle in
the dark, dark forests we left
to guard us from ourselves.

Bottle Tree, Taqueria

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San Antonio.

Some people know what tacos are, others know what bottle trees are. Some people go to Texas, others go to Hell.

Charlie Pride sings by the taqueria with the bottle tree: Is anybody goin’ to San Antone? You may all go to Hell.

The woman with the Spanish accent intones the words of Davy Crockett printed on a shirt: “You may all go to Hell, I’ll go to Texas.”

Upstairs in the antique mall there’s an original pressing of Riley Puckett, “Dear Old Dixieland”.

The Indian man wants to sell a hat. Resistol or Stetson. He wants to sell a boot or two. Justin or Ariat or something made in Mexico.

Then outside of the taqueria there is a bottle tree, although some folks wouldn’t know tacos and the rest wouldn’t know bottle trees.

So far from Africa, so close to Tenochtitlan. So many folks on their way to Hell. Is anybody goin’ to San Antone?

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Tactile Afterlife

Originally published in Heron Clan VI

I was at the age to guard the way the creek flowed like
it was some penmanship of larger men into the brown Carolina
and since waited on the country road and backwoods bridge

to become the compassionate elder viewing young catastrophes
and stepping panic stricken out into the power line clearing
as into the incisions of the black bear through hickory bark.

Then the dogwood blossoms fell before you knew it,
and with a vomit of flora the pessimism echo was muffled
as only I now recall how one or the other will first die.

Though in that green fury I am elated that it may be me.
The revolutionist’s preference is to explode like spring spores.
To collapse like the winter buck is the blackest rot.

Such interest in the produce of minds, you know, but
Carolina grows and grows again out of the cavities of
unevacuated chests – it may only be so.