Fall/Winter 2016



LeAnne Howe and Dean Rader

LETTERS FROM OKLAHOMA

 Dear Dean:
     These days every time I return home to Oklahoma I hear,
Back in the U.S…Back in the U.S. . . .you know the song.
Back in Oklahoma, in Oklahoma, back in
Our homeland with its
Rust red drought channels that
Cut deep into switch grass prairies,

Oklahoma our home,
Where indigenous plants talk rough as rednecks,
“Chloride does not make water, stupid!”
Yet, Senator James Inhofe, and Governor Mary Fallon, and Representative
Tom Cole do not engage with plants of a secular nature,
Rather they issue press releases denying the existence of summer.  

Oklahoma our home,
Where animals, fish, birds, even insects hold press conferences
“Water IS life, stupid!”
Yet, Senator James Inhofe, and Governor Mary Fallon, and Representative
Tom Cole do not engage with animals, birds, fish, and insects of a secular nature,
Rather they issue statements denying the existence of molecules.

Gee, it’s good to be back home, 
Back in the US, Back in the US,
Back in Oklahoma, Back in Oklahoma, Oklahoma,
Boy,
We don’t know how lucky we are, Boy
Back in, back in, back, back, back, back,

Back!

Postcard Never Sent or Self-Portrait over the Plain with a Pun on the Word Plane

Dear LeAnne,
     If we were in Oklahoma (which we’re not), there are so many things I would show you (which I can’t), like our farm (which is gone), the sky (which is), and the past (which simply can’t be). I used to think history was like a mime who couldn’t find a job.

Letters in the mail, knocks on the door, a painted face peeking through the window.

Neruda used to claim that from the top of Macchu Picchu, you could see the wheat fields of Oklahoma. I’m writing this from 32,000 feet, where the view is spectacular. Our state looks like an earthen motherboard from here or an early Mondrian before all the color.

I’m squinting out the window hoping to see my father, in room 302 of the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, but the body is so far away.

The other side, though, is quite close.

 

Dear Dean,
     I know what you mean.  Like shipping costs from China, all things rise over Okieland, bodies, baseballs, Wiley Post’s eye, you remember that eye, my adopted father’s right arm as he pitched a ball so high into the great blue yonder I lost sight of it in 1958. 

If we were home, (and we’re not) I would show you Wiley Post Airport one block from the house on Hatley Street in Bethany Oklahoma where I was raised along with a yard of chickens and Wiley Post in his pressure suit hovering high above us.  Raised up in Maysville,Wiley was the quintessential Okie, an ex-con turned oil field roughneck turned parachute jumper turned aviation inventor.  Sometimes his sub-stratospheric flights without enough oxygen made his good eye go gaga like the ones we saw in Modigliani paintings, you remember those eyes.  Wiley and the Cherokee kid Will Rogers were up 26,000 feet when their plane engine failed.  No screaming, no hubris, no sorrow, just three lines over Alaska.

Point Barrow
26 thousand feet, we’re in a vertical dive.
Orion-Explorer seaplane in . . .

If we were there, (and we weren’t) I would have elbowed,

Oklahoma here we come

 

Travel Tips for LeAnne or Things To Do In Weatherford, Oklahoma

rejoice you don’t live
                                                in Clinton eat
fried onion burgers at the grill drive by
one of seven Baptist churches pray
                                                                        at the Catholic one
scare your girlfriend
                                          at Little Ruffie’s grave drive
your grandfather’s Lincoln onto the runway
                at the Thomas P. Stafford airport
be grateful you don’t live
                                                     in Hydro
break into the junkyard spray
                                                                your friends with
the fire extinguisher you stole
from the junior high gymnasium steal
a fire extinguisher from the junior
                                                                      high gymnasium
hang out in front of the girl’s dormitory
at the university pretending
                                                         you belong there
sneak vodka into the Putt-Putt
                                                                  get cheese
tater tots at Sonic
                                     maybe a cherry limeade
but not at Braum’s
                                       drag main but not
with your sister
                                 belong there
but not at the Rodeo ground or the Ag 
                                                                                  barn
even though you may go on harvest
                                                                                give thanks
you don’t live in Burns Flat climb onto the roof
of the high school watch the college
                                                                                girls emerge from the cowboy bar
listen to your father snore
                                                       in one of the churches
believe in the holiness of the tractor and combine
                ask the lord for forgiveness when you don’t     
and when you don’t
                                                know why                         

 

Dear Dean,
     At last solitude, savor the inhalation and exhalation of a land still in possession of our names, and the exact hour our ancestor’s arrived in America’s big and bad Indian theme park, Oklahoma.  All of it feral.  Things I remember, a flat, barren landscape, red.  (Always red.)  In summer dark red trees, in fall red maple leaves, in winter even the blackjacks burn red.  But in spring, green silky grass covers the undulating prairies like Daisy quilts spread out for a jillion picnickers who’ll eat it all.  Maybe it was a burning spring and the threat of coming tornadoes that made us run for it.Run, I shout to you!  Run. Yet drawn to figments from a dark red Middle-earth we exhale, “Will you?”  “Won’t you?”  “Why won’t you?” and carve longing on a jaded Oak tree, things we never say aloud.  Oh Oklahoma, oh Dean, where.

 

Self-Portrait with LeAnne Howe or
Field Notes at the Beginning of Autumn, Hinton Oklahoma

Dear LeAnne,
                If a garden is the world counted
a dozen flowers in the sky might
be the heart of a lord on fire
                                             or the blue flame of nothing.

Nothing is always added to something,
  or so say the mathematicians.
Nothing is what the world owes you,
or so says my father.    

The wind hitches up its trailer,
                                                                 drags its load once more into darkness.

Things are about to start and to end.

Every second a maple leaf divides itself,
                                               an endless remainder of the undone.
Not even God knows how many have fallen.
                               
Our days are less a series than a sequence,
       our nights more formula than function.
We’ve become used to everything by now,
                                                                                        except our own lives,
those perennials we lose only once.

The oak trees have started their quiet calculations.
The stiff sun turns away from the dieback and shuffles on.
The moon has a clock deep in its throat.
It ticks its way back to the first morning,
tornado of invention and creation,
the solitude of name and naming.
                                                               
Season of threshold, I want to wear you on the inside.

This is the time of year when the world learns
to wear its light.
   I want to rise up out of the field to receive it.

 


LeAnne Howe is Eidson Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at the University of Georgia, Athens. An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Howe's work has been published in a variety of journals and anthologies. Her book Shell Shaker received the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award for 2002. Evidence of Red, a collection of poetry, Salt Publishing, UK 2005 won the Oklahoma Book Award in 2006.

Dean Raderís Works & Days won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. The Barnes & Noble Review named Landscape Portrait Figure Form a Best Poetry Book of the Year. Suture with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press) and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon) are forthcoming in 2017.

 


 

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