Broken Bow, Oklahoma*

red river
Prologue: Red River
The ríver bóy síngs in his síngulár wáy, and síngs sóngs
To hímself of tólling bélls on ríver cúrrents.
Each tóngue intónes, coúnts off the lógs that dríft dówn where stónes plásh
And súck at the swírling éddy’s édge. Inspécting
The snág that floóds treásured up hígh on límbs, cúl-de-sács clót
With wáter’s múrmur at élbow’s bénd – the beáver
And múskrat dáms loók like abándoned tówns. Tórqued, his fáce queérs
An éye in a loók acróss the ríver, lístless;
With sproúting greén sáplings for límbs, he’s héld fást at piér’s édge:
The cúrve of a wáterwheél breáks and pívots
For mýsterý’s rúin – Octóber’s  ówn bróken ártifácts
And Índian súmmer’s gólden ínnovátions.

Crossing Over
Soóner, láter, thát dáy, when the seásons’ ánswers coúnter
The estáte of thíngs – and as treés declíne their sháde,
Góldenród that gílds roád and ravíne survíves to pláy the míddle
In amóng the pínes and the chéwed up weéds now góne
Aútumn, álmost bóne-báre as the fraíl and twíggy dígits
Of a córpse. The scrólling of chéckered súnlight kníts
Out acróss the dénse crówn of the fórest, blúrry
As a cínemá – its degráding fócus yiélds
Ský to speéch: when sún bróke, it aróse, aféll in wárter
And so rísing, fálling, the rhýthm séttled súre-
Footed, breáthing back, mánly and féminíne, the púlse that
All the coúntry speáks: A cróssin’ wind, it too’s afell.


*Why should the Romans have all the fun? These two stanzas are a reworking of an old poem I wrote after taking a trip once  to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, a small town on the apron between the Red River and Ouchita Mountains in Oklahoma’s southeasternmost corner (on the business end of the state’s “meat cleaver” shape).  In the first draft I tried to write a strophe/antistrophe pattern in which masculine and feminine endings alternate between lines – and then as a sort of pattern within the pattern, I reversed the stanza pattern from the first stanza (masucline ending-feminine ending, etc.) in the second stanza (feminine ending-masculine ending, etc.) as a sort of answering stanza for stanza. In dusting it off, I attempted in the second draft of these two stanzas to standardize the rest of the line – based loosely (I mean really loosely) on a sort of Ovidian elegiac couplet. Instead of a 6/5 ft. couplet, though, I have an 8/5 – to allow for more exposition and, frankly, to keep the poem from spilling out of its original bounds. .

Regarding the form of the stanza, WordPress apparently doesn’t allow for indentation – so provide in your mind the indent on every second line. Also, I included the scansion marks for these two stanzas, but in future postings, I may leave them out. The poem is a humble attempt to write like the Latins – although in a qualitative rather than quantitative meter, of course!  Keep in mind that qualitative meter is much more subjective than quantitative meter – although Timothy Steele has a great work on the subject by which he demonstrates quite convincingly that with the proper application of Ockham’s Razor, all English prosody is reduced to iambs and trochees – although I believe he also allows for the rare spondee and pyrrhic. If for no other reasons, I’m convinced of Steele’s thesis because, well, the thing is, spondees and pyrrhics are ball-bustingly difficult to sustain in qualitative meter.

At any rate, enjoy….



  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    I tried readíng thése lines aloúd, but they stresséd mé óut. I feel like the Ethiopian eunuch who could read the words of the Scriptures well enough, but needed an authoritative interpreter to unlock their meaning.

    No pressure, JOB, but if you could record your own reading of these poems, I’d really appreciate it. Otherwise, you’ll have to recite them the next time we meet in person.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      Now you’ve done it. It’s not that complicated, Angelico: you don’t feed Mogwai after midnight, and you don’t ask JOB to recite.

    • That’s the danger of showing a peek behind the curtain, I guess.

      I’m not sure I can tell you anything more than I have, meter-wise; I’ve acknowledged that it’s a pretty subjective business at times. e.g. “himself” – where does the stress go on that word? “off” – that one can go either way. The idea was to come up with a set pattern to work from – there’s no set “reading” of it though.


      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

        JOB, thanks for the reply!

        I tried reading again without taking the accent marks into account — just letting the stresses fall where I would normally say them — and, wouldn’t you know, the marks aligned almost 100% with the meter in my mind.

        A thing like that!

  2. Also, that line in your comment ought to scan this way:

    “I tríed reáding these línes aloúd, but they stréssed me oút”

    Of course, yrmv…

    Done as a regular iambic (hexameter) line:

    “I tríed these línes aloúd, but ló! they stréssed me oút”


    • Matthew Lickona says

      I tried to read these lines aloud, but LOL, they made me laugh.

      • Now you get the idea…

        Here’s another:

        “Insteád of sáying LÓL, I’m gónna sáy SÁLTS (smíled a líttle, thén stópped). Ít’s more trúthful.”


  3. Good poem, thanks.

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