The Cortland Review

Dorianne Laux
"Dog Poets" by Dorianne Laux.

Dorianne Laux
Five poems by Dorianne Laux.

This marks an author's first online publication Carl Adamshick
This marks an author's first online publication William Archila
Wes Benson
Roy Bentley
Michelle Bitting
Kim Bridgford
Stacey Lynn Brown
Grant Clauser
Michael Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Matthew Dickman
This marks an author's first online publication Geri Digiorno
Cheryl Dumesnil
Molly Fisk
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Kate Lynn Hibbard
Major Jackson
Greg Kosmicki
Keetje Kuipers
Michael McGriff
This marks an author's first online publication Philip Memmer
This marks an author's first online publication Jude Nutter
John Repp
R. T. Smith
This marks an author's first online publication Brian Turner
Book Review
"Sister" by Nickole Brown—Book Review, by John Hoppenthaler.

Book Review
"Superman: The Chapbook" by Dorianne Laux—Book Review, by David Rigsbee.

R. T. Smith

R. T. Smith's Outlaw Style (Arkansas, 2007) received the 2008 Library of Virginia Book of the Year Award. "Good Friday Surprise" is from his current project, Red Wolf, a book-length sequence of poems spoken by Flannery O'Connor.

Good Friday Surprise    

Easter, I reckon, brings out the sneaks and mischief,
so when I hobble my way to the route box to post
a plea to my old fellow grouser and pilgrim pal Betty,
I find a night-sneak guest has knocked cattywhompus
the staked tomato plants and splashed paint as green
as apple leaves onto calf and cows. Not Halloween,
but he targets our road for pranks, and now he's gone
and made a wicked Christmas of the honey locust
tree, leaving photocards of naked ladies (Japanese,
I do believe) for decoration, every teasing yellow
strumpet pierced through an eye with a purple thorn.
Does the spring equinox always summon the pagans?
He—and only a nimrod would guess a she did this—
also flung across limbs tinsel strands silver as the hair
of angels. I'd admire to see what runs the brain
of a rabbit-twisting hayseed who'd bring his energies
to such an unholy hobby, but even a freak has needs,
and how this burlesque tree meets some yearning
and completes the world for him is worth attention.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that all art is "reason
in making," so I try to imagine some boy exploding
with his hormones out here by new moonlight,
maybe striking matches to render his impalements
more easy. Seeing the world in a tizzy, desperate
to make sense, he might have aimed to curtail a sin,
but he's got people, a home, his own bed, a private
history. Maybe he's seen a carnival peep show
that simmered in him all winter. We're just milk
farmers with a tractor that sparks and coughs
but won't turn over. We know next to nothing
about his doubts and cold pain, but as a writer
of genuine catlick frictions, I'm obliged to picture
the whole man carved in the Maker's image behind
the creator of this display. Is it natural selection
that raised him on hind legs and gave him thumbs
and a tongue fit to cuss, whistle and pray, or just
God's will tricking me to give it a story, to hover
my stiff fingers above the keys and hammer out,
"Mrs. Ringfield was shucking corn and throwing
the husks in a tub when the red-headed boy named
Jesco ran...," or something similar. No matter what
the answer might become, I'll clean up this mess
before Mama or dear Louise clap their eyes on it
and start hollering for the sheriff, who's got business
of fiercer sorts to attend. Isn't it in The Tempest
that the swamper Caliban says, "Sometimes am I
all wound and adders who do hiss me into madness"?
Could be what we've got here, lewd as a porch dog
licking his unspokens, is a youngster just learning
how the blind lead the blind. I picture him just now
probably behind some tool shed flailing his legs
with a cane of briars, begging to be one of the Elect,
while he bleeds. Our Christ on the cross, scourged
and thorn-crowned, suffered mortification enough
to heal us all. If I can muster some pity for the boy,
there's surely some refreshment in it, if not bliss.
But no Solomon, no manners, no urge for mercy
appears while chaos gnaws at Baldwin County.
What in heaven's name makes a world behave this
way? Tinsel, hormones, naked Japanese? I confess
(close now as I get to glee) the puzzle's yet another
stitch of ruthless mystery in the Mystery to me.



© 2009 The Cortland Review