3 Southern Novelists

            “To get there you follow Highway 58; it is a good highway and new.”

I’m hauling out for
I catch the midnight
where all my sin is
taken   for the time
has come to catch
that train

                        Where are we going?

Ft. Worth pool hall
Coke machine (empty)
Pow Wow Club
Meacham Field

Ft. Worth Renaissance
service entrance
prep cooks on break
reading The Star-Telegraph

Del Frisco’s
Double Eagle
All Scrap

(at Doyle Lawson’s, 7:30 P.M.)

      Outside a child’s voice counts the license tags. Highway workers drink Pearl from bottles in paper sacks, jockey an old flatbed home. I’d seen them earlier as they burned off the flatleaf and jimson.
      “I’m afraid of snakes, and now they’ve returned to the Trinity Valley,” Bill says, grinning. A certain hollowness sags around his jowls. “I look for snakes among the rocks.”
      To the laughter of a table of Memphis travelers, Bill tells me that the Sorghum Girl has seen a man’s face bloom in a puddle out back. She’s surrounded it with clippings—the Picayune and gray horehound.
      Bumping tables, the Sorghum Girl asks my name.
      I? Representing the Sunshine Dog Food Company? Tail tucked neatly into my pants seat? In John Breedlove’s old shoes? I, traveling?

                                                            What do you want me to do?

Sit in hotel
lobbies, talking
to bartenders.

Stand in dark streets
at night, staring into
lighted windows.

(at Doyle Lawson’s, 9:30 P.M.)

      In the corner, Cyril Lomas and his fruitless bitching about truck transmissions, women, and the price of rock shrimp.
      “I was the first to see the snakes amidst those rocks,” Bill says, now drunk beyond all reason. He undresses his birthmark, dangles his spindly legs. “The rocks are a trail of seeds; I’ll share them if you sing with me.”
      The Sorghum Girl says that she’s found my name, although Bill says that when she says “found,” she means “stole.”
      I? My bad behavior? Climbing onto the table,

      Duh-duh-duhhhh Bill sings,
      he sings,

                   I’m a

over again   I
upstairs   hot water to my ears
(is this really me?)   my Pontiac
right after dinner
new concrete slab black
mist-soaked fields   (two scenes later
town about midnight
hotel room   mine
nothing   mine
my name   nothing
nothing   (is this really me?)
say to me   nothing
                   but that will be a long time from now

      that we
      shall move
      among trees
      as smoke

                                                            Alone, the Sorghum Girl dreams of Sam Cooke.

Garin Cychol | Mudlark No. 23
Contents | Farmers and Merchants Bank