Summer 1995 • Vol. XVII No. 3/4 PoetryJuly 1, 1995 |

Prologue of an Arkansas Traveler

We rely on the truth for and against ourselves. RALPH WALDO EMERSON, "To the Public" Most men lied about New York City; every woman tells the truth about trains. I was scared of folks dipping snuff and having to spit; old four eyes lying about his age; I got about eight notes from Chicago how to keep safe on trains: one note is from Agnes about night watchman, so I'm going to ask Grandpa Brock when I get to Hot Springs: Grandpa's a ladies' man; you can tell by his carriage, a gait with a limp that keeps his Stetson in place, bearing like a man with a load he's not about to drop, dressed to kill, polishing his own watch, a timepiece worked from steel mills until arthritis got him, moved: sold his only house in the hills above the Colorado so his granddaughter, Fanny Mae, could go to school: she had done good time and bad at the Chicago Defender—you should read their secret files on lynching, with copies to the magnates running these railroads: grown men begging

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Michael S. Harper was a poet, scholar, and teacher. His many books of poetry earned him multiple awards including the National Institute of Arts and Letters Creative Writing Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

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