Mark Alan Williams


These are the bottomlands.
Black chimneys rise
from tobacco fields
alongside state highways,
husks of shacks
set afire.
They smoke for days.
Houses melt down,
swirling across yards in
abject whorls of trash and furniture.

I pass through each morning
on my way to work--
warned not to live in town--
sharing the road with
native staff of the
county schools and
highway crews.
Their cousins
stay home, smoking
through the buggy southern
afternoons. They crowd stoops,
groom roosters, call over
bare shoulders at girlfriends
who watch traffic rattle by
behind screen doors. As if
each PT Cruiser and pickup
brings news the factories
are starting back up--maybe
Converse, Lockheed, or Gerber:
Jensen, Hanes, Sara Lee.

When I stop for gas tweakers
ease around the corner
apologizing, calling me boss:
thinking I'm from out of town.
They need money for mama
who's driving them to the next county.
On the days mama doesn't drive
the two-lane highways built
for golf tourists crawl
with mopeds and motorized

First Saturdays at Wal-Mart,
Tuesday department meetings,
the weekend of fall powwow,
breakfast at Burger King
I think about
the black water swamp
and cypress gum trees
at Luther Britt Park.
Think the pitbull in the ditch,
size of a pig,
black spots
picking up and shifting
along his body.
Think we're
clean down to
cyclone fence
ribcages. Think
leave the shacks
burn the factories
get it over with.

Mark Alan Williams is a PhD fellow at the University of Louisville, where he studies Rhetoric and Composition. His poems have recently been published in the Tulane Review and Honeyland Review

Current | Archives    Submit | Masthead    Links | Donate   Contact | Sundress