The Land of Opportunity
Jesse Breite

                "If I could rest anywhere, it would be in Arkansas, where the men are of the                 real half-horse, half-alligator breed such as grows nowhere else on the face of                 the universal earth." Davey Crockett

Pity them all:
the trailer-burbs of tooth-rot
and beer-rust;
the nostalgic dreamers of lake-fish,
of bodies ripe, floating with feeling;
the tattooed—pale skinned,
all those exiting the century—they
were in love
with their own shocking selves,
their impossible language
from Bentonville to Magnolia to West Memphis.

And pardon the thousand sons of Fayetteville
buying up exams,
failing their way into seven-digit money.
The pills they’ve bartered.
They never bothered
to read their histories, never back-paddled
through apocryphal counties.
And once they lived long enough,
proved they could
stubborn the dirt, we let them settle,
tied our parts together
with their parts—we became opportune.

And spare the money, the diamonds, the business
of Wal-Mart, Tyson, JB Hunt,
the old sagging country club bodies roosting
in Hot Springs—
what they’ve taken and what they allow.
The hands that pan out
an existence.
The sellers of fridge magnets, wolf art.
The buyers,
the quarter-gamblers in truck stops,
the sweaty hot dog feeders.
The columns steeped in secrecies,
the gilded doorframes, the claret-gold mailbox-flags,
the young presidents.
The smoothly-spoken, how they—how we
have said it aloud
and believed it and made others believe
despite untruths.

And forgive the abuse, the inheritance
of abusers, of molesters,
of sons, daughters
alone in the houses of naked men,
the impulse to consume one’s self with deservings,
beaten down, passed around,
re-directed blame.
Forgive the apathetic rubber of dolls and cribs.
The smoking mothers on the porch.
The recognition
is long, hard, cracked concrete. You feel every slab
of the highway—you
spine-guilty, Arkansawyer.

And mercy for testimony, the witness that says
it is or it isn’t so:
what always comes back to infected visions,
the haunting—which we will
be unable to remember as action or inaction
but always
eternal, ubiquitous truth, like blood
and the horse within
from which we derive, our teeth, our teething,
our whetting. 

And mercy for the stones, the trees, the tar creeks
that cannot move,
that must bear the weight of Quapaw territory,
calumet ritual,
the cottonmouths that wrap our bones,
the pig-nosed
turtles chewing our tender, spare flesh.
Mercy for everything
with or without language. Let us revive
and the gentle, righteous choices made.
Pity the captain sailing down the river,
the one who saw
and summoned it into being: Le Petit Rocher.
The fetus buried in the soil,
its industrial roots.
When, oh wind, will you carry off
this terrible fruit
from the dirt, fraught with stone?
The alligator eye
squints into being. All this was just to ask
you, old visitor,
where it was you think you’d like to rest? 

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