I asked the Sourwood and Bluebonnets
“have you seen Joan of Arkansas?”
Scattered like lines of misshapen sonnets,
they shook in the wind and said not a word.
I asked them “Should I ask the birds?”
“Oh, the birds are insane, they have pawned their coats –
their love song froze up in their throats.
They rattle their cups, begging for alms and antidotes
from passing Joan of Arkansas”
Through the comedy of sex, a rosary of infirmaries
I had sought Saint Joan of Arkansas,
and the charred, bent and mangled vale of antiquities.
She is the Apocalypse came riding in a Chevvy Nova
and a dancer betrayed by parallax and Murgatroyd’s poison motion.
Arkadelphia came in a mist,
I met a woman who took me in.
She asked me “sir, are you a hypnotist?”
I stared into her eyes and her soul’s red, wet maw
and asked “tell me, where sleeps Joan of Arkansas?”
“For she is the wave to which I succumb
and she is the spes phthisica before kingdom come.
For her fragrance on my finger and memory on my thumb
I crave grace from Joan of Arkansas”
The woman said “find place where her faith can’t desert her
and search for the prophets whose words she is craving
– to a room where apostasy is viler than murder.
Ask her lover, a myopic sea captain
or the cotton merchants, speechless with hands as deft as blind men
So I followed the fingers of smoke and fire
for Joan, sweet Joan of Arkansas.
To an orgy hosted by some cockeyed messiah
and I watched her recite a secret cant of the cloth.
to men whose fingers flitted like manic, sun-struck moths
And the air swum with words until it was polluted,
her blouse flew like a flag, to which they saluted,
the flag of a nation whose house was uprooted
and the silver on her stomach and merc’ry in her mouth
She challenged me – “The man who approaches closest
and travels to that which he most yearns
is the man whose desire is the strongest –
I said “Ma’am, I’m not wandering Frenchman or legendary traveling salesman
and nor am I some catfish, for the butter in your pan.”
She covered her breasts with diaphanous scraps
and scowled like some mirthless comedian
standing there, draped in her legends and maps
“Sir, you love proves impure and you must depart from me
to have seen me so naked is to know me but partially”
and I turned and I left, but I snuck to a glance
at her bare, swaying back and her slow, voiceless dance.
Oh! My pillar of salt and the Gothic romance
of Joan, Sweet Joan of Arkansas