The Haves and Have-Nots of Marlboro Country
for Bob Norris
When I finally made it to Marlboro Country,
I knew it because I didn’t have to work
anymore. Herds moved themselves
and we all just sort of waited, looking intently into
nothing, waiting for a sign.
Still, my clothes got dirty.
The spurs we wore were
just for show: our horses always
saddled and ready to ride forever through
the haze of the countryside.
My grandfather was nearby, down the gravel road
in Winston Country. The horses were
smaller down there. The people bought canned food and
Budweiser. They all wanted to live
in Marlboro Country.
Every day, the sun set over our statue
of the Marlboro Man. In his mouth, we kept
a cigarette burning, always. In case he ever
showed up, we wanted him to know we
were always thinking of him.
for Vachel Lindsay
“They tried to get me; I got them first!”- The last words of Vachel Lindsay
in washing his windows,
my brother Noah nearly killed himself
south of Springfield
mistaking Windex for Gatorade
from a plastic cup on a kitchen counter
he is replacing after 40 years of
holding breakfast and
he remedied the toxin with
some crackers and well water,
then, in switching to Anheuser-Busch,
he called the Poison Control Center
before he called me.
BUT I FEEL FINE he said,
and I asked if his insides
held the television crows who
never could tell what they had
in just hanging from the power lines.
He said WHAT?
He wants me to know that his neighbor
to the south just went belly up.
He called him at midnight to cry,
saying that even if he sold everything,
he would still be a half a million in the hole.
I thought of our neighbor Vachel Lindsay
drinking Lysol just a few miles north,
the taxmen circling his childhood home too,
bankruptcy buried like turnips forever across the fields
Given the time, we all till until
we reach the bottom, exposing black earth
and eating of it deeply,
nourished by its chemical bread and in
knowing that we have done
good, honest work.