Mule Team and Poster
on a photograph by Walker Evans (Alabama, 1936)
Two mules stand waiting in front of the brick wall of a warehouse,
hitched to a shabby flatbed wagon.
Its spoked wheels resemble crude wooden flowers
pulled recently from a deep and stubborn mud.
The rains have passed over for now
and the sun is back,
Invisible, but everywhere present,
and of a special brightness, like God.
The way the poster for the traveling show
still clings to its section of the wall
It looks as though a huge door stood open
or a terrible flap of brain had been peeled back, revealing
Someone's idea of heaven:
seven dancing-girls, caught on the upkick,
All in fringed dresses and bobbed hair.
One wears a Spanish comb and has an escort . . .
Meanwhile the mules crunch patiently the few cornshucks
someone has thoughtfully scattered for them.
The poster is torn in places, slightly crumpled;
a few bricks, here and there, show through.
And a long shadow
the last shade perhaps in all of Alabama
Stretches beneath the wagon, crookedly,
like a great scythe laid down there and forgotten.
Donald Justice, New and Selected Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.