Nancy: No longer remote and exotic, the Florida Keys have very little left of the imagined romance of the '20s and '30s. Crocodiles are replaced by earthmovers and natural vegetation by souvenir (made in Taiwan) stands. (Not that that stopped optimistic biologists from asking me to help look for crocodile nests.)
Florida, For Wallace Stevens
Nothing here to burn the men of Hartford,
men of Dubuque,
Terre Haute; the streets are as safe as nunneries,
even the back streets,
even the small streets,
even the smaller streets,
that die in palmettos,
or if not in palmettos
in rusted bedsprings and maimed chairs.
Nothing not like Hartford;
the women are not papaya eaters,
no, on the side streets they are planting geraniums
cool as Connecticut. They are sweeping their floors.
And I am too late. There is nothing here
to test my fear,
no smoldering flower of temptation.
Wait for me, Mr. Stevens,
hold your ship, I am forty years too late, and
I am without an answer for the woman in the trailer
who asked me, “Why don’t the crocodiles
go back where they came from?”
Alan: With apologies to the master’s “Anecdote Of The Jar.”
Ajar In Tennessee
He came ajar in Tennessee
or Kentucky — one of those broad, squashed states.
He sat himself upon a hill
and, as the poet predicted, green
came nosing round.
He aligned his axis with the state’s,
east-west, then turning, west-east,
feeling the lingo tug him south,
mountains and hollers spin him north,
until feet and head pulled counties,
Green came round, snuffling and licking, not ordered,
and he was not a port in air, not round,
he was ajar, the air a ladder that crumpled in his hands,
the green a wilderness, a pack of blue-ticks baying,
driving their fox to ground, somewhere
here in Tennessee or maybe ol’ Kentuck.
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