Poem of the Week: Midwest Boys by Betsy Brown via Alison McGhee

Midwest Boys, by Betsy Brown

In Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
we kept it in mind
I-41 went clear down

to Florida. These scoop-necked
midsized midwestern
towns, set up separate originally

on waterways for trading–
first furs, then lumber,
the worker drinkers

voiceless then fierce
for the hell of it, tense
machinery, construction.

As a teenager you noted
mainly the routes out.
Spring, the dead mud,

the bad paint job, drifting jarred
eaves troughs, sullen pickup
sunk to its axles on the lawn.

A boy’s mind turns to the road.
Tract houses, one, one,
all along the frontage road

with tequila and Old Style, pot,
cheap speed; if you’re
a girl you try to remember:

They shoved candlesticks
up Linda. They drew on her
with her Bonne Bell.

If you pass out
they’ll strip you,
you won’t know

and if you’re lucky only
photograph you. These pictures
show up on bulletin boards.

In Eau Claire, 1992, teenage
boys dropped rocks from
an overpass over I-94,

aiming for windshields.
Martin Blommer in his
Winnebago, hit by a 32-

pound rock; his wife alongside
didn’t hear it, the crash,
the RV veered in a second

into the median, staggering
to stop, and he, in silence,
transfixed instantly, forever.

32 pounds. These are
my highways. I remember.
Long-play radio stations,

driving in moonlight
past hours of white
white mute fields.

I never wanted
to go back to Florida.
As a girl I didn’t

have much to compare–
dime bags, shot glasses, lives
that trudged with losses

and butane. I can’t forgive them.
Where could one drunk girl
find an ocean?

In the first forced blink of spring
I hate you.
I remember your names.

My curse on you is this:
May you have daughters
and may you love them.

 

Thank you Alison and Betsy.

For more information about Betsy Brown, please click here.

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Poem of the Week

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