Can we recommend a willow switch? Can you hear us in the Iron lungs and sorrow of the State Sanatorium for the feeble minded? Can you hear their ghosts on the sawgrass wind?
Prose Poetry by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dear Managing Editor of Esteemed Kentucky Poetry Journal, who wrote, “We have completed the selections for our spring issue, and the editors have not recommended your work for publication. However,” we can recommend a good bourbon to assuage your woes, or a good horse to bet on in the Derby, or a holler to sleep in, a place to hear your voice echo, a town inside a mountain and a mountain inside a town. Factories of baseball bats. We can recommend a bed of bluegrass to lay one’s head beneath the Big Dipper. Or is it the handle to a banjo playing “Orange Blossom Special” on a back porch facing the Norfolk southern line? Can we recommend the mountain? Drive to Harlan County, pick up a piece of coal the size of a working man’s fist. Score a handful of pills, and climb among the peaks of Kingdom Come. Can we recommend a willow switch? Can you hear us in the Iron lungs and sorrow of the State Sanatorium for the feeble-minded? Can you hear their ghosts on the sawgrass wind? Day lilies and Earl Scruggs playing in the mountain fog? We can recommend the strings that are strung across the chest, and the woeful sounds of the mourners beneath the lynching tree. These are the things we recommend. The ones that float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, in a shadow boxing Louisville gym, in a thirty-foot Lexington swish, in the whiskey and the chain gang’s lament, we recommend the things we must never forget. Share croppers cooking up a mess of just-caught catfish and kettled grits. We receive no compensation for recommending these to you. To pass the time. Buck shot and buck-naked boys diving into the creek’s deep end. Mediums joining hands. To praise the Cutlass cutting hot across the pass at county’s edge. Bootleggers and a pair of scissors, church ladies cutting free hair, gathered up in bags for the chemo patients. We can only offer something close to testify as we offer up rejection. Like a black-lung widow fumbling for an ashtray in a bar named Moonlight.
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 17 books including the forthcoming All My People are Elegies and Alongside We Travel: Contemporary Poets on Autism both from NYQ Books) and The Second O of Sorrow published in 2018 by BOA Editions, He works as a care giver and Med Tech for various disabled populations and lives with the poet Lisa M. Dougherty and their two daughters along Lake Erie. More info on Sean can be found at seanthomasdoughertypoet.com