Dempsey, Oklahoma

Squash vines coiled
in and around, spilling &
tumbling over each other,
exploding with fruit,
filled with more water
than this place had seen
since May.
Those vines grew wild
alongside bindweed
in the garden that once
fed a whole family,
the jars lined up in the
dugout cellar —
apricots, potatoes, beans.
We used to play in those
places as they turned to ruins,
our historic homeland.
We’d take watermelon rind,
or cantaloupe halves out
for the overheated cows,
leave the fruit near the salt lick.
Our socks would be filled
with sand burs,
our teeth with dust,
and often my mouth would
still show the traces of chocolate
from a clandestine visit
at my grandma’s parents’ house.
The cows were traded in,
eventually the whole lot
retired to the comfort of town,
to the neighbors
with their cat stories,
and a garden bursting
with cucumbers,
a mowed lawn,
I’d miss Dempsey then,
resigned to sit in hushed rooms,
watching my grandma’s mom
eat cornbread & milk.
She’d tell me stories,
talk about her daddy,
but I always wondered
about the cows
and about the apricot trees.

Written 29 January 2000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma & 23 February 2020 in Payne County, Oklahoma.

Brian Fuchs, “Dempsey, Oklahoma” from Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Scissortail Press, 2020)

Original Version:


Dust and saltlicks and fuzzy caterpillars. I loved the farm. I often complained about the heat or stickerweed or the heat — such incredible heat. I was secretly relieved and secretly upset when G, with her parents moved into town. Where in town was the garden full of overripe squash and where in town were the cows, anxious for discarded watermelon or cantaloupe rind for dessert. They moved to be close to a hospital — to make certain they would have a place near for death. Poor G, it broke her heart, and us kids would sit around making all kinds of noise and she wanted to cry. Cry now, G, cry. Were off making noises in our own places — we’re grown now. We know you need a little peace — we will be quiet now.


part of the chapbook Studies In Loneliness

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