rj looney | 3 poems

January ’51

White smoke boiled from the tailpipe
like a July thunderhead
1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe
parted an icy puddle
placed by God
in red clay and gravel
yellow stained fingers
steadied the wheel

Hill people looked out
between the muntins
of the front door window
cold metal knob smoothed
from decades of turning
the young girl lay
sweating in a bloody bed
birthing a daughter destined
to her mother’s fate

“Oh Lordy…”
to nobody in particular

Maybe a prayer for strength
do this thing one more time
not so much different
from birthing calves with Daddy
sometimes they made it, sometimes not

“It’s gonna be okay, Marlene”

17 hours later

wrapped and screaming child
placed on the bib overalls of her father
waiting by the wood stove

“Can I see her now?”

A clean white sheet covered the mess
and the face of an angel


We lost that old house
40 years ago in a fire
Ol’ Fagan started it on the back porch
knocked a coal oil lamp off the handrail
Not an arsonist; he was scared
a cat ran under his legs
that old cypress went up like newsprint
Fagan lit out and never came back

Aunt Linda gave birth to Uncle Brace
but we all thought they were siblings
even after Aunt Linda got married
to a geologist eight years later
Geemom took that story to her grave

an old hackberry took over
after the house left
one of the kids hid a Prince Albert can
in the crotch of the trunk
some 80 odd years ago
placed inside were two clay marbles
a screech owl feather
a tin solider of WWI vintage
and a secret note
from a school house sweetheart

the tree still stands
growing around that metal pocket
slowly rusting away the truth

Early Summer Gloaming (Long Ago)

Innocence remembered
in the season’s first pair
of cut-off jeans
warm and cool breezes
on pasty legs
shadowy children
chase fireflies
by 13 Year Cicadas
Mason jar
poorly ventilated
now a light fixture
shimmering and flashing
sunburned faces
against the backdrop
of a Pontiac hubcap
staining bare feet
on the walk home
like the sky

RJ Looney has lived all but six months of his life in Arkansas. His poems have appeared both in print and online zines, most recently in Pigeonbike: Beyond The Broken Bridge, Salt, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is an associate editor of poetry for Thunder Sandwich.

0 Replies to “rj looney | 3 poems”

  1. Three world class poems. It’s never a given that any poet/writer will have his soul and his intellect in tune to his region. These poems are represntative that this author “gets it.”

  2. dead-on, carter. every word is “true” in the sense that it is fully evocative of place. a picture may paint a thousand words but the right handful of words can produce a sepia-toned photograph or one of those old Kodak Instamatic snapshots of a kid in cut-offs during some past arkansas summer.

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