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"The Kephart Crow," a poem by Doug Hoekstra

The Kephart Crow

Part One

In my travels, I sometimes seek out markers

Paying tribute to those who have made my path lighter

Better trod, or more manageable, quietly saying thanks.

On the north side of Chicago, the graves reflect the city

Sullivan design, a baseball for the ages, and Mr. Cub Himself

Three signers rest in Boston, Paul Revere still riding through

The granary, headstones leaning and tumbling like Halloween

Across the south unknown soldiers from Stone River to Shiloh

Line up in a row, begging silence for the day, lambs

Underneath the stars, in the center of the desert sands

The gilded palace of sin, Cap Rock aglow with fire

Once in Winchester, before a gig, I walked to the Cathedral,

Humming the long forgotten pop hit by the New Vaudevillians,

Paying homage to Jane Austen, a woman ahead of her time

Who would be referred to as a bad ass in today’s language

At Stratford Upon Avon, I stood in line with the young girls

Weeping for the bard, who passed centuries before and is buried

Elsewhere in the village, like Elvis’ twin brother Jessie Garon

Lying figuratively but not literally next to the King in Memphis town

In Liverpool, the black cab driver took a detour on my behalf

Paying homage to Stu Sutcliffe, so young, without a chance

To fully hone his craft, marry his beloved or have children of his own

Light rain fell over guitar picks, close to the Casbah, far from fair

In Palm Springs, it took awhile to find Sinatra, among anonymous

Movie stars, uncharacteristically modest, nothing extra for the Chairman

A few rows over there was William Powell, I wished I’d brought

A martini, a fedora, or at least a crooked knowing smile

Part Two

In my travels to Bryson City, I sought out Horace Kephart,

Saver of the Smokies, following my GPS through an old growth

Forest of unpaved streets, right left right, spinning through time

A small dog sat down in the middle of the street, unmoving

I stopped the car, opening the door and watched him stroll on by

A series of trailer homes on blocks, spruced up and decorated,

A yard sign honoring a recent high school grad

Two more turns, open gates, chain links, bulletin board

Diagrams and numbers, lettered rows, D8, calculating

Up the steps, moving slowly, looking and looming for

The boulder straight ahead, strewn with coins and flowers

A crow called in the quiet. I knew it was a crow because

My son was a birder when he was little and we would visit

Wild places and read about the birds and he’d teach me too

Get back to the pure place where possibility still lives

Just like Kephart. Looking for a better way. Escape routes.

So many have been closed, people spinning on the wheel

A losing deal, grasping for the light and a chance to steal

A few minutes of self on a two-day weekend, exhausted

Down in the town, trucks roared past souvenir shops,

Gas stations and burger kings, not a bit like 1931 when

He was laid to rest. Even the mountains were different

Blue and laced with clouds, not sepia or black and white

As I bent over to thank the boulder, or Horace, dependent,

The crow stopped crowing. The autumn sun turned the sky gold

The cars quit riding through the town and the stillness returned

If only for a moment. All my friends had disappeared.


Doug Hoekstra is a Chicago-bred, Nashville-based creative whose poems, performances, songs, and stories, have crisscrossed the globe in publications and playlists, his eight CDs and four books earning Independent Music Award, Nashville Music Award, Independent Publisher Award, Indie Next Generation Book Award Pushcart Prize, Royal Dragonfly Books Award nominations, brass rings, and groovy times. (author photo by Devon Eloise)

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