Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Article excerpt

The bloated street, fat with crowds and voices,

young faces gleaming under rain and street lights,

slumping lumps of bodies under ponchos; and the human

microphone: call and response, a kind of tribal summons,

but weird, like ghost chants among stone tombs

where slept, awhile, the noctural gods of Wall Street.

And the old man's story comes back to me outside

a deserted bank in Oklahoma robbed in 1933

when locusts wedged between sandstone bricks

throbbed their little desperation song, days on end

standing like rotting fence posts along dry fields, the air

a wall of red dust, Black Bear creek a bloodless scar,

and the horse people of the Oto long since gone away.

His voice hardened into something thin and brittle

because somehow, he said, somehow then, he thought,

in this flat Baptist land of good deeds and bad money

where preachers, fathers of the faith, ranted against

every form of wickedness except the kings of poverty,

the men who pulled the strings and foreclosed on half

the farms in Oklahoma, somehow the scabby hand

of vengeance was alive and real and moving slowly

through the land and dusty streets of small towns

like this one because the third thief placed the nose

of his 12-gauge beneath the bank president's chin,

then said, This, sir, is what happens when banks

are built on the broken backs of the people, and

the sound was terrible, and the streets were empty. …

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