Visiting Southern Ohio In October
The sign for Ray’s Body Repair Shop
is directly across the road
from the county cemetery.
Sometimes, here in the Midwest,
the poems just write themselves.
Like last week, at the small college
football game, the seats half-filled,
mostly with proud parents wearing
oversized pins with pictures of their sons
who won’t get into the game until
the last thirty seconds if they get in at all.
And the alumni band, back for homecoming
after twenty years, joining the current group
in playing the fight song: the very pregnant
clarinet player in front with her toddler
at her side who marches along.
Eight-year-olds rotate their red-and-white
pompoms in ovals, and accompany
their college counterparts, the youngsters
held high overhead on the outstretched arms
of male cheerleaders who hold the girl’s
heels in their palms, as the girls form
perfect Y’s and wave to the crowd.
But, like the TV commercial says:
Wait, there’s more. The drive along
unmarked, barely blacktopped roads,
more gravel than asphalt, past
wizened valleys of corn, white with age.
And yes, splintered barns, roofs lettered:
Say Yes to Jesus or Say Yes to Hell.
The abandoned car up on blocks,
windows blown out with the sign
Get Us Out of the U.N. in cardboard where
the windshield ought to be. The tavern
with the notice nailed to the door
Only English Spoken Here,
and the ramshackle farmhouse,
with the newest addition to the property,
a ramrod, fifty-foot steel pole
proudly flying the Confederate Flag
that tells me once again why
so many years ago, I needed to leave.
© Richard Luftig
Richard Luftig is a former professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio now residing in California. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States (including the Loch Raven Review previously) and internationally in Canada, Australia, Europe, and Asia. His poems have been nominated for the Pushcart prize, and two have recently appeared in Realms of the Mothers: The First Decade of Dos Madres Press. His latest book of poetry will be forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2019. His webpage and blog may be found at richardluftig.com.