Once a month to keep the pig trail open
that connected us with the other world
a road grader rumbled past our trailer
followed by a bookmobile. I don’t know
what is sadder, watching illiterate folks
ignoring a bookmobile or watching literate folks
walk away from a bookmobile without a book.
The Dixie Mafia
Six adult males, each of whom dresses like Jack Ruby
and mopes around like a pallbearer, have moved in
across the mountain from us and built a mini-fortress with
its front turned away from the pig trail winding past it.
This family doesn’t even have a mailbox. When I ask Grandfather
about them, he mumbles something about respecting
the privacy of neighbors before changing the subject.
The pine that killed
the spinster two miles
down the pig trail
from our trailer
was later mauled
and wedged into
a cord of firewood.
It had crushed her trailer
while she watched
Queen for a Day
on a TV crowned
with rabbit ears.
Mama washed our laundry in the creek behind
our potting shed trailer and dried it out by the smokehouse
on a clothesline strung between two pines just
high enough to keep our sheets off the ground.
Her clothespins made fine wooden toys when faces
were painted on them. Every night before tucking us into bed
Mama read us a poem or a story by Edgar Allen Poe
or Robert Louis Stevenson and drew three pictures for us:
a saw with shark-like teeth, a ship with three smokestacks,
and Dick Tracy’s profile: square-jaw, hawk-like nose, and fedora.
The ship, Mama always said, was carrying pine cones
to China, or returning from there with a cargo of tea.
Doesn’t sound like a bad childhood, does it? And it wasn’t
if you omit the part about our father who killed a man
who owed him fifty dollars, popped his eyeballs out and hung them
on a cypress tree in a swamp in the southwestern corner
of this fine state, before stringing himself up beside them.
Growing up, Larry Rogers lived in Berkeley and Compton, but was mostly raised in a potting shed trailer in the piney woods of west central Arkansas—a sanctuary for moonshiners, marijuana growers, and merry (and not-so-merry) pranksters. His poems and stories have appeared in The New York Quarterly, South Carolina Review, Kentucky Review, Pearl, Rattle, Hanging Loose, Nerve Cowboy, Wormwood Review, The Denver Post, and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. His poetry collection Live Free or Croak was published by Golden Antelope Press in 2017.