J.R. Forman




no one thought it lucky to be born
many many so to die

not no one thought it lucky to be born not a one
not Grandmother with her dust-cloud eyes
not Grandfather with his numb lip
not Father with the Springfield rifle
not Father with the bayonet in the ammo box
not Sis swinging from the rafter beam
not Mrs. Gentry who taught geography
and worked the Texas County census
not the Sanchezes who plowed up New Mexico
not old Huck with his tobacco rolled like a cocoon
and the smoke comes out like flutterbies

not Mother blessed mother of the hairpin
Mother blessed mother of the clothesline paddle
Mother of the denim patch
Mother of the dish-soap china
blessed mother of the flour-bag dress

Mother my mother pioneer mother of the plains

no one thought it lucky being born
many oh many so to die
no one thought it lucky being born
many oh many so to die




some words we could not spell
because they did not exist
seent, cain’t, aholt, et as in ate

and eaten and some metaphors
we swapped for invisible
intellections a herd of turtles

for slow, a tick on a fat dog
for happy, if the creek don’t rise
for all our potent contingencies

we made our own imperfect
conditional when conferred none
I used to could, you used to could,

my hog used to could if any of us
had ever wanted to and when we did
adjective the world we spoke

in hieroglyphics that cattywampus
stool, that gussied-up girl
at least
one word we sang like psalm

because it transubstantiated the tongue
y’all for you, y’all’s for your, all y’all
for each and every sinner

we were told not to scribe in Appalachian
to record no word not scripted
not to lead and ink the sacrosanct