the museum of americana

a literary review

Four Poems by Ryan Clark

 
Mangum Boasted 7 Phones in 1901

O connection, ancient engine of teleportation,
of voice and tone fit to numbers,

is a dial our return to the umbilical;
is the weight to our cheek a carrying

of some revelation we had forgotten:
that a voice is a prayer reaching out for a body to swerve into.

No face affixed, this is us as a language,
a way into wires surrounding a door where you are.

Wires teach exchange, grow us further
into a mapping of the limbs we are of an unstill body.

New parts are added; we call
a young woman at a livery stable

to order a horse and buggy and she
tosses her voice unafraid back to us.

That she is talking over distant fields
is a suturing of fissure.
 
 
*
 
 
Dot to Blair
for Blair, Oklahoma, once named for Dot Zinn, daughter of the town’s first postmaster

Dot the effects bled of the new name, every post, the mist of here.
Blair, OK is stung in, named for John A. Blair, a railroad official

image placation washed over a past, a face at once a need to have
a name literally for years at present tense. It is so moved.

The neighbors use the name, move through it, become tied to rails.
Some shrug and fade dotted addresses, all blurring in and out

of underfoot, the smear of a postmaster editing out his daughter.
How Dot delivered proof of her own vanished place, short over earth,

among people buzzing where home is a steady ring unintelligible
anyway. Even at eight did she even view what used to be her

sound in the hung red-dirt rails pressed in. Did she ear the iron,
shoulder rough in the sand. Did it shudder, fidget the hem.

The title could unfold, as in undone of border, as in she went away
during her twenties―as if following the veiny tracks where they led her.

The move to Geary, ending Zinn for Lyon at the wedding. Is she a site
or a sight, fetching. Survey says Dot met a man. The responses

citizens share on a name for the town: some wanted to keep the name
but others felt at the name of a railroad official, wanted to hold it

to their letters. So the name was changed. She said for you I do,
and so married, took a grown sound, his sound, developed to the north-

east a radius of dwelling. The new addition produced a good, sweet
tether, which proved to be more of an enticement than proximity to rails.

Soon, a flourishing face rang out enough of a name for the hearth.
Years later, when the tracks were letters businesses used to knit the place

of map, or wooden nerves shot up into bridges, straw grass is cut
by thick boys wearing dungarees where a church came in need of a new

parking area. Plow a lot, gather the paving, unearth the room. Pray For Rain
in the years without enough rain to settle the dust. Where a four-year-old

runs a toy car through gravel, letting the painted alloy metal scuff rivers
into the mess of Historical and Industrial Progress. See Eddy, young

in June, sand off each chip of pressed-on color: how a burgeoning town,
circa 1901, is removed, restructured; how town blurs, is shoved on.
 
 
*
 
 
Friendly People
for Friendship, Oklahoma

1.

A name for friends pulls a roof over
what is established in 1903,
returned to question and rested as a church
sticking like a light out of rough vail nothing.

We slide together as a mended name for here,
assure each who lost that sense of all
we are is friendly, the old call of friendship
firing stability into our rock home.

2.

The west is a trail leaned toward the hope of crossing
unafraid the river washing into us. Say and is now called,
wherein the is is immune to foreignness, is settled
as Clabber Flat, Pleasant Point, Alfalfa, Lone Oak, 
 
and Navajoe
, and Friendship swirling all of us
as a site with all of us fixed on a shore.
The net offered us baptism, and a slab of town,
and us a rounding of common becoming friendship.

3.

Drain the last century and grow us unmade here
full of our speaking into the earth, where rises newness
like cotton. Again are stores, surfaces,
shadows awaltz to a sound hard through forced wood.

A map proved transport, and afterward a list of shared worries
and hymnals start a new school district, sign of what
toughed it out enough to wear a nice dress to class.
Build it with friendship and need.

The meaning of us separates us into different worlds otherwise,
and roughly this shadow diminishes us over years of partition.
Share us among name and history. When pulls a point,
as school consolidation does, the built us is moved outward,

drifted, for a shared space means tracing a friendship area
we need to reassert. The building is never finished.
The state built into as registry maps us as surface
and nothing other.
 
 
*
 
 
Old Greer County

When you untie a border the river moves with it,
an entire shore written off, as forged as a sun-
written sign in the dying day. You swear it formed
in a fight, is seen as a stain rubbed along
what we found in command of law. It don’t fork.
It vanishes calm off of Texas at the thin reach
of county, a ring called territory hung between
the Prairie Dog Town Fork and North Fork
of Red River, a rush of sound made to fit the ear
like a name, held until familiar. How foreign affects us,
so long a home, so sure of a tearing away.

A war of pens is received. First to draw a country
is a map line, a need to survey what is won.

The year is wet, is sod house at site of farm,
gums gnawing on sweet settlement, a scene
of communities smacking the dirt unstated,
as if run meant to claim the prairie.

The wrong fork of a river means a river ain’t there.
Buy a boundary between Texas and debt there.
Land is sudden change, in us framed feral, afraid to let
the dust become apart, away, out there, write there.
 
 
 
~  ~  ~

Ryan Clark is an Old Greer County native who currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa. His poetry has most recently appeared in Heron TreePanoplyOtolithsSplit Lip Magazine, and Found Poetry Review, and his first book, How I Pitched the First Curve, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press.