The challenges of translating from one language to another are well discussed and lamented. These challenges increase when poetry is involved: not only must the meaning emerge, but the product must SOUND like something that could count as a poem.

Marcia Haag, "On Translating Choctaw Poems" from issue 14

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Erica Dawson

Erica Dawson's first collection of poems, Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser, 2007), won the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Southwest Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, the 7th edition of Poetry: A Pocket Anthology, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in FL where she is Assistant Professor of English and Writing at University of Tampa.



I’ve half a mind to make a move.

I stayed in Archer City where
I made Larry McMurtry proud
by downing one too many shots
of ice-cold vodka, tumbler-sized,
then yelping all alone to “Sweet
Home, Alabama” while the band
reprised “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,”
packed up, and quit the Legion dance.

I thought I didn’t know that song.

I two-stepped with a cowboy, kissed
a Yankee (wrong), regretted it,
and found my cowboy once again:
the Yankee looking like a young
Paul Newman and the cowboy like
I’ll bed you, hard and hot in jeans.
What was it in the Texas air
that brought Delilah out of me?
Was it the quail and wild hogs?
The memorial on the Court House lawn?
The BBQ cooked from a cow
that tasted like a slaughtered cow?

What hiked my temperature? It climbed
the diving board and took its clothes
off, piece by piece, as if last May
were my last picture show, last chance
to sweat with strangers in a Spur
Hotel room, quaint with double beds
and Byron on the table, me
as Cybill Shepherd, starring in
her first movie as Jacy Farrow,
walking in beauty like a night
too much for such a little place
where the town Indian said she
was the town Indian; and, my
sweet cowboy said I gave him eyes,
said I was high-heeled trouble, said

I have the tendency to lead.