Voices on the Wind
Voices on Waiting
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
by Mark Vogel
when the latest Chamber of Commerce leaders
gather to envision progress, to belch conviction
without burrs, to celebrate believers
who gave hard money for a glossy town history
pared to narrow essentials, oblivious to
Methodist bake sales, stoic Midwest humor,
even good-hearted Rush Limbaugh’s mother,
as she cringes at her son’s excess.
Chapter one forgets the city founder trading
sweet whiskey to Indians to make a fortune.
Instead, bronzed Shawnee, Osage, Capaha
stand isolated and noble in a landscape tinted
like a Disney diorama. On page 6, the rumbling
New Madrid earthquake causes the Mississippi
to run upriver, fat and brown. Nowhere are
the aftershocks, the list of casualties.
Chapter two documents the Trail of Tears
river crossing, but focuses most on the state park
looking east to exotic Southern Illinois.
Missing are frenetic slaves, and the underground
railroad corridors. Nowhere are sharecropper
shacks squatting in baking sun. Nowhere are
immigrants, like Great Grandpa breathing
Missouri fever, pushing a family down-river.
Nowhere his subsequent eighteen-mile move
to the city, the crucial stories of cows and goats
and chickens so thoroughly come and gone.
Nowhere the exquisite copperheads poised to strike,
the billion red chiggers eating beneath the skin,
the mosquitoes collecting in clouds. Nowhere
the ancient rocks from the farm stacked
bald and clean. Nowhere this current
generation with strange haircuts, and electronic
devices biding time, in Denver, Orlando,
Washington, D.C., waiting for a blessed sign—
preparing for a triumphal return.