Journalism In Verse

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Other Names

in Culture by

Poem Written upon the Attempted Destruction of the Oldest Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch by an Arsonist Days after the News of a Shooting in Midland and Odessa

This poem isn’t about a gun—
not the shot or what comes after, the hurt.
This is a poem about the torch
that burned out its violence
in a quiet field while most of us slept.
A flame briefly silhouetted

against the echoing night that swallowed it.
The heat that saddened us,
but left no lasting harm.
Fire that roared in the dark field
along the highway, needing no one.
Beacon of lonely long haulers trying to stay awake.

Here, graffiti isn’t vandalism;
everyone passing through can leave a mark.
I have done it. People I love have, too.
And so, it seems, have all of my enemies.

It’s our only monument, those dark shapes of cars
standing against night sky, outlined by city glow;
they are star-voids, tipped into the ground
and leaning away from the wind like fences.
The nearby cows nose our relics,
empty white cans with nozzles.

Who would try to destroy something as adored as this?
Someone leaves footprints in the dust,
sees the lines of headlights loud
like little galaxies, and strikes a match.

Two hundred pounds of paint melt off,
at least thirty years of names and dates.

I could say, Of course time travel exists.
We’re moving now, aren’t we? Moment to moment.
So leave your name there again, if you like.
I’ll leave my name, too.

Sometimes I want to pretend I don’t know
that other names will bury ours.

Sometimes I imagine that the children there
rubbing overspray from their fingers
are really counting the many ways to be alive.

 

________

Chera Hammons is West Texas A&M University’s Writer-in-Residence. Work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Foundry, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a winner of the 2017 PEN Southwest Book Award. Forthcoming books include poetry through Sundress Publications and a novel through Torrey House Press.

________

Fire breaks out at Texas landmark Cadillac Ranch
[NBC News]

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