Assume the Vicksburg Road,
a strand of wild irises
nestled at your shoulder, a boy
beside you with a new and gleaming
watch and pressed clothes.
Assume you’ve never seen
this country before and, unconcerned
with love, seek solace
in its diners and roadsides.
That’s music from a Black man
walled inside a shack.
That’s strawberry pie, a curtain
made of bedsheets; that’s a flag.
Assume it’s yours, the flag,
and what it means when night
collides with it. Watch your feet.
The water moccasins, they say,
sometimes mistake the land
for palaces and run amok.
Myths prevail. The Yazoo City madam
walks her poodles after dark
and never flinches.
Her girls recede into the walls,
each her mother’s portrait, each
to be forgotten…like mandolin sound
or the smell of breakfast.
You might see them at dawn
rinsing out their panties,
sucking raisins, watching the sky
for signs of their mothers.
You might see their brothers
if you make it to Clinton
where things are happening—
revenge and retribution, a battle
in the pool hall of brothers, rivals,
and questions: what happened?
where's the meat I ordered?
why is your sister looking at me?
Ohio native Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His writing has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.