we arkansas moonshined down the freeway – signs following us like ghosts, ancestor stories lurking in the hills. we pulled at memories we didn’t have, like teeth splayed out; like ozark rock shining in the glint. we arrowhead aimed for places in time lost, horse-back travelers, abandonment and gap-toothed storefronts. ghost towns ship-wrecked by time, by poverty, by an anchor pulling somewhere deeper than rock – sedimentary and solitary and sedentary.
i thought about typhoid fever taking old aunt lena, my great-grandmother flossie riding bare back in her dress down the middle of the town. i thought about the flu taking grandma without a name. i thought about old grandpa medlock buried in the cemetery; riding on one solitary horse to Flippin, Arkansas; tending the grocery store in town at the turn of the century. i thought about racism embedded in the rocks, the silt of magic baked into the earth’s crust. i thought about the rainbow trout splayed out in the White river. i dipped my hands into the river, imagined the wheel of time spinning my great-grandmother in a cotton dress, on a summer’s day, hands fresh in the water – 7 years old, dripping ghost-fire. brave, strong, full of meadowlight and beauty. i thought about my great-great-grandfather getting dragged for miles by a pack of runaway farm horses; the public hanging in the town square of a stray cowboy for raping the sheriff’s daughter. i felt the ghosts in the air, or the ancestor stories still flowing in the white river. i greeted the strange gravel of time, walked its planks, hurled its seasons onto my back. tried to imagine the bodies, the lives they lived, the stories they breathed. when i silted my hands into the enormous body of the clear river, i tried to feel her hands inside of mine. tried to feel the endless grace of a century or two wrapping around me. the playful stream of lives gone by still swimming in the waters all around us. embedded in the crust of the earth. storied earth, oh wise-old grass; blowing. always knowing things that i will never know. the way my great-grandmother’s hair looked like in the august light of autumn. twirling around ghosts even then. the vision of her dead sister walking up the lane towards her/vanishing at the eaves of the porch. the distant memories of dna laced into our bones. like the silted crevices of the earth encrusted/entrusted with our stories. like rib cages splayed wide in rock teeth/gulping/chomping/keeping our secrets safe/keeping our stories safe/silting out like erosion, the strange ghosts we don’t remember/the old bodies we cannot unearth/the unmarked graves we cannot find/the ancestor songs still swimming in the streams; rainbow trout, or golden oxygen named chemistry. or has the river kept flowing? or has the river kept flowing. and do the rocks dream only to forget?