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About this Poem 

"I grew up in a very small Texas town. Writing this poem, I tried to use clipped lines and assonance to get at how static and unbusy and circular high summer feels there. What surprises me, though, is the cynicism of the speaker, her defensive posturing against the advance of time and the world beyond the town. The poem has turned out to be about fear perhaps more than anything else."
—Collier Nogues

A Small Hot Town

Collier Nogues

The river its balm.
I spend a lot of time

waiting in the car,
nail file dust sifting
onto the gearshift.

Two corner stores gone
and a handle of gin
under the Walk sign.

The gin drinker is
uncertain he’s here.
He’s in the war.

Wind blows a hat
past the court’s lawn,
a balloon

from its gravesite tie.
The graveyard is
the town’s high hill.

Salty, sure, and a thrill,
at home in the hot sun
with not much on.

Reaching for eggs
in the dry house
of hens, or reaching

into a slaughtered hen,
plucking her clean—

I wouldn’t say
anything bad
about anybody.

Then I grew
into my ugly,
said plenty,

dropping quarters
at the coin laundry.
The sound of water

turning over water
was a comfort,
the sound of someone

else’s things.
There’s only one
wing in our hospital.

It’s sufficient.
So is the one road
out of the county.

You can drive
your whole life
into its macadam,

no matter. June
crosses crosswalks
in the noon air,

greasing gears
so gently
I can feel it

in my ears, unrelenting,
busy as an army
in its foxholes.

Copyright © 2013 by Collier Nogues. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 5, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Collier Nogues

by this poet

The hillside was blocked 
with pens, horses of other colors 

five or six to a pen, 
and one long fenced strip

from the base of the hill up, 
with dark brown horses flank to flank 

not moving, 
but their necks craning over

each other's backs. 
They were looking towards 

the dip at the top of the hill,