Amagon, Arkansas
by Ed Madden

- after David Baker

Small towns punctuate the highways
leaving Newport, the county seat,
their smallness a kind of grace.
Everything has been left out
to weather, a car on blocks,
a plastic horse faded to dusty blue.
To drive through is the prevailing
viewpoint, though there are other
ways to see the post office,
the portable sign in front
of the grocery, where the specials
every day, are staples:  bread,
milk, ground chuck, and all
that's not advertised -- Shirley's crafts
scattered across the shelves
on the back wall, and Wayne's
analysis of the weather.  There
are stacks of snuff and Skoal cans
at the register.  A box underneath
the counter has all the tabs, credit
where credit is due.  Across the street,
at church, sermons rarely leave
casualities.  Regular attendance is
the only virtue left; gossip
and family take care of other sins.

Once a train ran through town,
but now only tractors and plows,
implements, pickup trucks on the way
to Walmart, or the big grocery
stores in Newport.  Or the John Deere
dealer in Weiner, where they have
the state rice festival every year,
cooking contests and beauty queens,
harvest longings transliterated
as civic pride.  Nothing is lonelier
here than attention.  This is the season
when crop dusters are blamed
for everyone's dying gardens.

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