Three Poems by Joshua Butts

Measley Ridge Road

Moving with the weather is no option
for those on Measley Ridge.

No vessels are prepped
for when the Brazos sweeten.

Shirley Hughes, send your laundry water
to the nearest stream.

Ziplocs huddle the deaths
of the holiest white poor

with their ragged white meat
and dry bushels

requiring so many creamed sides.
If this were Louisiana

one might know how to make love.
Here, they keep waiting on the red pig

to make them all that money.
Find a novelty and something is on.

It gets to be Sunday.
There’s supposed to be a reunion—

the message moves through the family,
phone-to-phone, telling the outskirts not to show.

The forgotten played-out orphans
pushing the long boats out into the lake

can get lazy in their tans.
There’s no reason to travel to Measley.

 

Tennyson Road

Nearly as beguiling as that town called Academia,
Tennyson Road forces brother to brake for a photo.

It isn’t cold enough for a jacket and so I
don’t have a jacket. I could have used shades.

There was gravel, mud. The pose is forgotten in the can
as the tender copse to be cased by explorers

calls us passersby. A blueness. Some crabapple.
And brother brakes again. We drive over the low rise,

looking for the blue shack. No sign of a business
we are greeted by a buzz cut. We pluck five dollars

from each wallet and sign the waiver—life, brother,
pursuit of happiness. A guide hikes us up the electric-

lined ski slope. For the length of the tour, she says:
These lines stretch to feed cities that are not here.

The grassy, weeded path is a straight cut for a whirligig
but for the towers. We stop near the top as the wind

freshens. I taste sweet potatoes and quail and make up a lie
about a market. I would peel the potatoes and stuff

the quail with thyme, maybe fig. My brother doesn’t hear
the crackle, thinks the wildflowers are new and blazing

all on their own—

 

Zahn’s Corner Road

Drive above the houses
tucked below the road line and scatter

a momentary tire hum—
watch the hairpin and don’t get distracted by

the eroded and ribbed with rebar
castaway gravel

home to an early 80s Pepsi can.
Zahn’s Corner has crazy concrete.

There are weeds, weeds,

and a rail bridge’s gray stretch
where you learn Wally ♥ Jan.

 

 

Throughout the winter dawn
and the winter morning

the hermit notices aspirin
have an actual taste.

Light hits ice under the fence
and there is apple in the whisky.

A clothes hanger catches
the noon news from Cincinnati.

Due to tragedy a young woman argues,
You will hear of every city.

In this case it’s Peebles.
There’s a flattop on the sexton

who steers the cars.
We’ll do this as respectful as we can.

A niece wants a ring off a dead lady’s hand.
She has a right.

 

 

A store nearby presents stability,
like ashing cigarettes

into a bowl and tomorrow
to wash the bowl and to eat oats.

Many things give pleasure, stimulate
the teeth, the tongue, the gums.

You can get at least one of these
on the wooden floors

of the Zahn’s Corner Market:
betel nut, cocaine, Anbesol,

creosote, milk, lotto.

 

 

A holler over a hamper claps
as a frazzle-haired teenager

is finally learning the laundry—
mildewed towels

that have never seen a beach,
socks, briefs, a diaper.

He gives up, breaks for a cigarette
on a pure products porch,

a class picture of
bicycle, kickball, tire,

cash register, rust-covered industrial bolt
never recorded.

 

 

One Sunday a sculptured surprise of ice cream
depicting southern Ohio

is for sale from an orange igloo cooler,
the kind road crews

use for drinking water.
Stranger treats have come from even barer spots

but few coated in a chocolate ganache.
Here come the cameras.

 

 

Zahn’s Corner
leads to the Goodwill.

Spend three dollars
on a black bag of clothes.

Buy another bag
when the clothes start to smoke.

 

 

The cable crew films a few historical
mannequins on North Market

then strums a strin
at Prussia Valley Dulcimers.

The Butter Girls strike business
and the Emmet House re-opens

so the folks can get prime rib,
baked potato, and a salad—

so the folks can get a salad.
The bar pours a frontier whisky

for the filming crew. Hollywood!
(I think they are from Pennsylvania.)

 

 

In the moonlight 
just off Zahn’s Corner

the spelt sways and rattles
so the fuzzy earth seems to move

into the sky like a song.
But it’s something about junk or love

arranged in that Tulsa sound
and Tulsa blues, tonight, seems so

Zahn’s Corner.
I wouldn’t lie about how something is spelt. 

 

 

The paper struggles to translate
the documentarian’s vision:

I’d like to go closer than genus
and species. The Barbary Lion

 is extinct, though I’ve spent the night
tracking one on the banks of the Scioto.

It will be a two-week project, looking for
the autumnal turn the trees take in October

though the film crew can’t escape
the road noise that hovers and hovers.

 

 

The shack roof clatters with rain,
but there is song:

Emerson bowled me over.
Thoreau cooked my beans.

I have a plan to cut
a cut into the land, to pave a cow path

and unravel the American dram.
I will found a team on Zahn’s Corner. 

Disc up the earth, paint the lines.
Call the team, The Trains.

 

 

***

Joshua Butts received a B.A. and an M.A. from The Ohio State University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati, where he was a Charles Phelps Taft Dissertation Fellow. His poems have appeared in various journals including Sonora Review, Tampa Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Harpur Palate, Forklift, Ohio, and Quarterly West. His first poetry collection, New to the Lost Coast, was published by Gold Wake Press. He also  teaches at Columbus College of Art & Design in Columbus, Ohio. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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