I Can’t Believe What Has Happened – Ryan Clark

for Vinson, Oklahoma


I begin to gather what the town knew and find this sand where families had lived in the vise that drought crushed down on the land. Our people filed out, turned their sixty acres into a road and a shrug. The movement between the future of five hundred farmers and their families moving to Vinson and the past of an emptied town is too fast to feel it all but in the hush of a cemetery, a noun for the face of what vanishes with a version of recall. Late the scene of hands feeling for the removal of cotton in the boll, everywhere the reach of cuts. I don’t know why, but we all began to stop. Our sign is done, the fields back to wings of grass. The tough root of our lives fails to hold. All memory is a fitted hinge to what forfeited this whirl of light that I feed my own living into.


So much is seized by the dirt and moved into the earth that I forget to wonder what happened, like a butcher of years in the slaughterhouse of the past. Another faint shadow undead. I can’t believe what has happened. A far-removed people have gone too far to need a way to return. I speak to a gone town receding toward the rocks: I can’t believe what has happened. In our extinction full of time together looking back, what is Vinson but a thing lonesome and heartbreaking. Go into the farm and fix it to your tale of who you are, a romance come true. We always wanted to leave some history. But the vision never cemented, and time rains a soft, dull wash.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: For this poem, I used a method of homophonic translation which re-sounds source texts, letter by letter, according to the possible sounds each letter is able to produce (ex: “cat” may become “ash” by silencing the ‘c’ as in “indict,” and by sounding the ’t’ as an ‘sh-‘ sound, as in “ratio”). The source text for this poem came from archival materials found in the Harmon County Historical Museum in Hollis, Oklahoma.


Ryan ClarkRyan Clark is an Old Greer County native who currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa. His poetry has recently appeared in Jazz Cigarette, Heron Tree, Panoply, Otoliths, and Split Lip Magazine, and his first book, How I Pitched the First Curve, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press.

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