Miss Oologah

I.

You’d be hard pressed to find a man who’d say
the name correctly on his first, or seventh, time;
around her outskirts: ten odd minutes tops,
then river bottoms, bluestem fields and hay;
in barbed-wire folds she holds herself together
and sets herself apart—Miss Oologah.

Miss Oologah, dark clouded ma’am who took
the name of her transgressors: windswept fronts
of air that come to blows above and bruise
her heavy gray accumulations. They
twist white cumulonimbus breath to storms,
and hide her blue-bright beauty shining through.

Tornadic ladylove of mine your quiet streets were long my home,
and though your track trains shrieked and cried, I’ve grown to miss you, far off, flown.

II.

Past Rogers’ Mini-Stop (unless you need
some gas, tobacco, game day beer or snacks);
and after Trummel’s Drugstore window front,
the one she paints to match each season (suns
and snowmen, jack o’ lanterns, Valentines);
at last—her lonely stoplight on 169.

Her Cooweescoowee Avenue adorned,
but humble; dignified; befit her age
and place, a nearly-silent belle who shyly
and seldom courts the highway traffic, spurned
so long ago by faster, further; chase,
she won’t, she woos with peace, her slower pace.

Seduced, I’ve left to forewarned cold, despite the buildings drifted high,
and though the coal plant burned your breath, reduced, I yearn for vaster sky.

III.

And yet I know, Miss Oologah, that you,
as generous as you are, could never give
enough for one more Okie boy—your Dust
Bowl never moved. It settled like the rest
of us are too often prone to do. The thorns
that thistle your dress, how can they not ensnare?

Miss Oologah, I take your leave and hope
your love as well. No bitter, bandied words
you’ll hear from me. Just birdsong hymns, and sky.
As burning pasture fires dim to smoke,
an embered scent remains aloft—your mark,
alit, and laying its claim as it descends.

Oaken-tressed darling of the plains, with pastoral fervor heat your brand,
for only a fool would abandon this, your dream, his life, this land.

Luke hails (rains, thunders, and storms) from northeastern Oklahoma, and is consistently missing big sky. He has not, however, missed driving a car since coming to Yale. If you can offer any assistance at resolving this internal conflict, please contact him at luke.stringer@yale.edu.

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