Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Poem by Jim Wayne Miller

Why Rosalie Did It

Because talk in the town
had the galvanized taste
of tap water standing
too long in pipes

because dogs ran loose
sniffing each other's rear-ends
while people walked
their personal devils on a leash
or carried them, like cobras
in a laundry basket

because all the talk
the telling and recollecting
enlarged, clarified nothing
but wore memory away
so when Mrs. Curry was killed
crossing the road to her mailbox
she became no more
than a dead dog on the interstate
run over and over (in the telling)
until nothing was left but
a scrap of hair in a bloody spot

because they refused to interpret
("that's just his way")
("well, he was a Meadors")
("them Jacksons is like that")
because the 40-watt bulbs
at the head of stairs
were one with their little economies
of word, of thought

because, stopped on the street
in front of the hardware store, talking,
they were like horses standing
side by side, head to tail,
swishing flies off one another

because they knew
about everybody

knew when her Daddy died
choked on a piece of beef
at Purcell's Family Restaurant
after church
he had a polaroid of Roma Strickland, naked,
in his wallet

because they knew
or thought they knew
about everybody

because you were naked here anyway
Rosalie came up from under the bridge
at the end of town

--her jeans and shirt and underwear already
floating downriver—and
ran buck naked down Main
at 4:30 in the afternoon
blonde hair flying
tan all over
(they didn't know that, for instance)
no white skin where she'd worn
any two-piece bathing suit

because at least for the two minutes
it took to jog past the Dollar General,
past Western Auto, All Star
Realty and Auction, and on out
to where she'd parked her Datsun
by the picnic tables
the boys from the Job Corps built

nobody moved
nobody spoke

nobody knew what to say or think.
There wasn't a sound
except her bare feet touching lightly
on the astonished sidewalk
nothing moved
except her reflection running with her
in store windows.

(from Brier, His Book. Frankfort, Kentucky: Gnomon Press, 1988.)


Sheri said...

I've been looking for this poem for 10 years!!! I'm so glad you posted it. Thanks!

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