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Monday, April 19, 2010


by Lee Patton

Across Oklahoma, April, 1995

Pastures, green spears
in standing water
“We gotta put that sticker on, Addie”
Cherokees in a Cherokee at 7-11
Pigtailed girl craves a Slurpee
“No, honey, later, okay?”

Headlights blur through rain
A little copse north of Sallisaw
already in full leaf

Clouds abate over Tulsa
In fleet sunshine headlights
guide the statewide procession
through vacant downtown streets

Down at the capital’s airport
the President deplanes
Rain pelts tarmac like static
in the broadcast’s live feed,
eulogy that twangs against emptied
city canyons, his accent
like those of the silenced

On the river, the rain resumes,
each droplet a sting
for the swollen surge
to bear, clear down
to the all-accepting sea

At river’s edge, a grandma
sings out, “Tom!  Mandy!
Let’s hurry back, now,
we’ll catch our death of--”
As if evaporated from sight,
the kids don’t answer.

The downpour gentles.
Grandma slips downstream
through shrubbery.  Lilting, pitched
high, her voice still free of alarm,
she cries their names

Author’s note: Today is the 15th anniversary of McVeigh and Nichols' bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.  I wrote this poem after I happened to be driving across Oklahoma on the day of the memorial service for the 168 people, mostly daycare children and office workers, who were killed.


Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, poetry, drama and commentary.   Quarterlies that have published his work include The Threepenny Review, The Massachusetts Review, The California Quarterly, and Hawaii-Pacific Review. His second novel, Love and Genetic Weaponry:  The Beginner’s Guide, was launched from Alyson Books in May 2009.