“If I am to be some good later on, then I am some good now. For corn is corn, even if people from the city take it for grass at first.”—Vincent Van Gogh





Alberta Skaggs


When I read in the newspaper that Fred and Denny
had died in a car accident, I couldn’t quit saying,
“Oh, my god.”

I couldn’t pull my hand from my mouth,
hair from my eyes, tracking lines of black
print, words somersaulting off the page,

“ran a stop sign;” “license revoked;” “car overturned.”
Rearrange this, I say, make it read something else:
Make the other guy die.

It’s not like I ever invited them over for spareribs,
fried cornbread, expensive brandy, an evening of charades.
No—not ever any of that.

But there was this: Open mike night.
In a little bar on the strip twenty years since
when a couple of boys, brothers in fact,

stepped up to bright lights, introduced themselves
to a gangly hippie crowd, asking if we’d like to hear
a little Stevie Ray Vaughn.

After a while the one branched out by himself
playing a lengthy rendition of Jimmy’s Star Spangled Banner—
strings stretched, the speakers hummed, the feedback immense,

he was giving us the home of the brave, the land
of the free; we were standing on table tops making it so
god damn it was good.

Wednesday, they’ll put their bodies in the ground
but not their souls. I’ll want to yell up to heaven,
wake Hendrix, tell him to put a little sound in the air,

pump our blood. Give these brothers coming the banner,
give them the spangled,
these bright bright couple of stars.