By Gerry Sloan
Gerry Sloan is a retired music professor living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Poetry collections include Paper Lanterns (Half Acre Press, 2011), Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (Rollston Press, 2017), and five chapbooks, including one in Mandarin. Recent work has appeared in Xavier Review, Slant, and Cave Region Review (Featured Poet). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howl for Susan Powell
(with a big shoutout to Kegan)
The she-wolf in your dooryard
howls twice through the fence
as if in tentative acceptance
if not forgiveness for crimes
against her kind committed
by mine, those vagrant forebears
who crossed the Atlantic and finally
blundered into the Ozarks where we
offered steep bounties on wolf ‘scalps’
for nearly two centuries. Therefore she
lifts her snout to the sky and delivers
a shout so primal it defies description,
warns and welcomes simultaneously,
testing whether I be friend or enemy.
Rookie Teacher, 1969
Pay attention to urine—or your’n—
as my hillbilly student would say.
As in ‘tain’t no biznuss of your’n,
a retention from Shakespearean England
tucked safely away in the Ozarks
like a time capsule—the Falkenberry girl’s
rude reply to my innocent question
why she couldn’t attend our next session.
Taken slightly aback, it was as if it were I,
not she, who had strayed into these hills
and transgressed some invisible boundary,
some unwritten code known only to her
and such locals as strangely retained
a possessive that sounded like pee.
(for Rick Squires)
I start the day with another fruitless
search for le mot juste, as if the right
word might save us—a fool’s errand
but the only one that seems to matter
as we grow older, the result a poem
that may only be seen by a few close
friends who will weigh its weaknesses.
If a potter, I might putter in clay
to produce a hard object intended
for future use. If a woodworker, spawl
something whimsical for collecting dust
someday on a shelf, reminding descendants
of their crazy ancestor who once believed
he could save the day with good intentions.