illustrator Florence Manlik
When I realized as I stood on a rusted bridge
that any song by Dolly Parton
would have a more immediate effect
on anyone than Keats’ “Ode to Autumn,”
I blinked, then looked at the long
reservoir of water lined with yellow trees.
This is the same water that Keats
wrote his name on, I thought,
but you could swim through all the waves
in the world and never find the name Dolly Parton.
And I am betting that Dolly Parton’s body
(the court will come to order!)
will not be laid to rest on a mournful island
within sight of the watery veins of Venice.
Nor can I picture Dolly Parton
in the same room with Fanny Brawne
though the names Dolly and Fanny
sound equally erotic to my cocked ear.
Still, I have no trouble keeping
them apart, even now as I am being blinded
by the low, bright sun flashing on the water.
Keats never said
it takes a lot of money to look this cheap,
and Dolly Parton never sang “The Eve of St. Agnes”
or “When I have fears that I may cease to be.”
Yet here they are, side by side,
and all because I showed up today
at the rusted iron bridge down the road
to dispense with one of poetry’s sacred obligations—
I’m talking about gazing at water
for however long it takes,
no matter what it brings to mind.