The Train to Will Rogers

willToday is the birthday of one of the greatest Okies who ever lived. Will Rogers, who was born Nov. 4, 1879, said, “It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.”

In honor of Will, here is a poem that I wrote many years ago. It is based on a memory my gangy told me about when she would ride the train from Locust Grove to Tulsa to see a movie or to go shopping.


They were fifteen and smoked Lucky Strikes
on the train to Tulsa. Both wore their best dress.
Montie Jean’s was blue taffeta with lace
crocheted along the collar. She had to stand
or stroll to keep it from creasing at her hips.
She held Ann’s arm and they squeezed their heads out
one window and shouted into the spring
day at the flitting bright spots of bluebirds
and young men in the fields, checking the soil
to see if the seeds could be planted yet.
They waved to the men, and their smart curls held
in the wind and in the hot, cramped theater
where Will Rogers lassoed both their hearts and
Montie Jean, laughing, swallowed her mint gum.

–Shaun Perkins

Tin Can Drum Contest

tincan1As part of the celebration of the fall season, the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry will have a Tin Can Poem Drum Contest. Make a drum from a tin can and come drum it in a rhythm circle at Autumn Movement with us!

Bring your drum out for a contest at the museum:

Saturday, Sept. 26

Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry

5:00-9:00 p.m.

Museum tours at 5:00, a drum workshop at 6:00, folk dancing at 7:00, and a drum circle at 8:00 are the events planned. Drums will be judged and prizes awarded at 6:45.

In Preparation

sewingThe sewing needle rests next to my eighth
vertebrate. I cannot feel it but know
it is there. The thread circles my kidneys
like amber capillaries. A sloping
row of real pearl buttons, tiny full moons,
bump into my small intestine. Silk blocks
wrap the ligaments of my arms, as if
my bones are on fire and must be bandaged
by something cool. A piece of lace crumpled
into a triangle lines my womb. All
that I am, all of my tools and notions,
I have swallowed and absorbed. I now leave
their world. I open the door to the night
and drink my thimbles before I run out.

–Shaun Perkins

April 29 Birthday: Rod McKuen

rodmSo Much of Spring

I never saw so much of Spring
as I see now. The tender willow
turning amber. The nightengale,
the sparrow in the heavens
The moon behind the spider
making web, now blotted out by
geese in trumpet, home again,
home again, home to spring.The toad has found his roadside.
Butterflies are jumping
from cocoons, ants and crickets
share the bush and every truth of
this sweet season.

The moon is now a pearl, a cloud
its shell, as in the tall bamboo and
reed cicadas sing
in four party harmony.

I think the older seasons envy

spring and well they should. The
roses are not blood-red or purple
in extreme.   A subtle pink, a lazy
lavender, no single petal scorched
by sun.   All things al dente,

How is it that in all my years I never
saw this much of Spring? To think
I once believed that tenderness
lay underfoot of Autumn.
I am the aging sparrow’s twin
suffering from ill attention, as all
souls concentrate on April things.

–Rod McKuen

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.

April 28 Birthday: Harper Lee

harperAtticus’s Speech

Atticus was speaking easily
He walked slowly
Up and Down
In front of the jury
and the jury seemed to be attentive

Atticus paused
He unhitched his watch and chain
and placed them on the table
saying “With the court’s permission,”
Judge Taylor nodded
unbuttoned his vest
loosened his tie
and took off his coat
and to me and Jem
this was the equivalent of him
standing before us stark naked

he said
“this case is not a difficult one,
it requires
no minute sifting
of complicated facts
this case should never
have come to trial
This case is as simple
as black
and white

The state
has not produced one iota
of medical evidence
to the effect
that the crime ever took place
It has relied
upon the testimony
of two witnesses whose
has not only been called into
serious question
on cross-examination
but has been
contradicted by the defendant

The defendant
is not guilty
but someone in this courtroom is

I have nothing
but pity
in my heart for the chief witness
but my pity
does not extend
so far as to
putting a man’s life at stack
which she has done
in an effort
to get rid

I say guilt
because it was guilt
committed no crime
She has broken
a code
a code so severe
that whoever breaks it
is hounded
from our midst as
unfit to live with

What did she do?
a Negro

No code mattered
but it came crashing down on her
Her father saw it
What did her father do?
There is
circumstantial evidence
to indicate that
Mayella Ewell was beaten
savagely by someone
who led almost exclusively with his
left hand
Mr. Ewell
swore out a warrant
No doubt signing it with his
left hand
and Tom Robinson
now sits before you
haven taken the oath
with the only good hand he posses, his
right hand

And so,
a quiet
humble Negro
who had the
unmitigated temerity to
feel sorry
for a white woman
has had to put
his word
two white people’s
I need not
remind you of their
appearance and conduct
on the stand
The witnesses for the state
have presented themselves
to you
to this court
in the cynical confidence
that their testimony
would not be doubted
confident that you
would go along with
the evil assumption
that all Negroes lie
that all Negroes are
basically immoral beings
that all Negro men are not
to be trusted around our women
Which, gentlemen
we know is a lie
You know the truth
some Negroes lie
some Negroes are
immoral beings
some Negroes are not
to be trusted around women
black or white
this is a truth
that applies to the
human race
and to no particular
race of man.

One more thing,
before I quit

Thomas Jefferson once said
All men are created equal
There is a tendency
for certain people
to use this phrase
out of context
to satisfy all conditions
We know
all men are
created equal
in the sense some people
would have us believe

there is one way
in this country
in which all men are created equal
there is one
human institution
that makes a pauper
the equal to a Rockefeller
the stupid man
the equal of an Einstein
That institution
is a court
in this country
our courts are the great levellers
and in our courts
all men are created equal

I’m no idealist
to believe firmly
in the integrity
of our courts
and in
the jury system
that is no ideal to me
it is a living
working reality
a court is no better
than each man of you
sitting before me
on this jury.
A court is only as sound
as the men
who make it up.
Come to a decision
restore this defendant to his family
In the name of God,
do your duty,”

Atticus’ voice had dropped
and he turned away
from the jury
he said something

“In the name of God,
believe him,”

A found poem created by Dylan Aspie from To Kill a Mockingbird

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.