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Amy Pickworth 2July2019









The Ohio Poem

So even after all this time

when I see a dog that’s eager to bite

I think of my darling angry boys of southeastern Ohio

skinny kids on short chains

shortchanged and wary of the stranger’s hand

Their fury comes to them honest

as the mongrel great-great-grandsons

of unlauded Civil War heroes

who recklessly avoided death

so they could simply turn around and walk back home

shoeless and enraged over the mountains

Christ you poor dumb sweet lugs

now you’re cannon fodder

in countries they never showed us on the map

or working at Walmart or the basket factory

or maybe if you got lucky driving for UPS

You can shoot a deer and

leave its steaming organs in the snow

You’ve had pictures and words

tattooed on your necks

and will not regret it later

Sometimes it’s better when you just drink yourselves

into a great artificial calm

My beautiful sunburned farmhands of Appalachia

my first sweethearts you’ve all gone to seed

But you don’t need Mom to tell you you’re fat

You can see when you’ve gone soft lost your nerve

and your way as the heirs of all those pious Germans

who built modest houses and the furniture in them

checked their traps and stocked their cellars

with fat little apples from trees their fathers grafted

who knew the price by the pound as well as the cost

beat their wives and children into good behavior

and meted out their own pleasures with tweezers

or gorged on them in the dark

Whose boys served front line KP patrol any shit assignment

in Europe or the Pacific or Vietnam so that now as their grandsons

you can sleep on the couch in the waning light of the flat screen

O O O Ohio you were the Mother of Presidents

but now they’re always born someplace else

That industry has been outsourced

to where they make them prettier and cheaper and

no one has to worry about plowing and

salting the driveway

You, men of Ohio, were once my own

I grew tall in the light

of your refrigerators

I licked around the edges

of your ice cream sandwiches

I swayed in your arms at prom

I let a few of you lay me down

on the gold shag carpet

but not pull off my pants because

it wasn’t until after you enlisted

and I went to college that I put out

and then it was for boys

who weren’t from around here

So I’m sorry, Ohio

You were my home and

the home of my mother and her mother

and her mother’s mother before her

and the parking lot where I finally did lose my virginity

to a guitar player who’s now a banker in Tokyo

Your gentle hills once spectacular mountains

worn down over time by the monotony of glaciers

finally dismantled and cast aside for their paltry seams of coal

are still the setting for all my best plane-crash dreams

but in the end I betrayed your sons

          except that one who had the audacity

          to betray me first and for that of course

          I am doomed to love him forever

Sometimes I think I should’ve taken

one of those boys by the hand

          I could’ve found him in the dark by his calluses alone

and we could’ve lit out together

We had our opportunities, you know

“Goddamn it this movie sucks”

he whispered in the flickering light

“Let’s get out of here

Slap me hard across the face

scream ‘You’re an asshole’

run up the aisle

then I’ll come running after you”

God I remember our delight

at how we’d shock them all

But in the end we just stayed

in our seats obediently waiting

till it was over and

they turned the lights back on


Amy Pickworth is the author of Bigfoot for Women (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2014). “The Ohio Poem” originally appeared in Smartish Pace issue 18.




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