Rumor

To write about Arkansas summer you have to have the animal memory of swelter, of low water, of dry sumps, of deer come close to the cow pond and cattle down to the licklog, of NO BURN signs everywhere. You have to remember 2012, the second hottest year on record or 1956, which by word of mouth was the first. But this summer I’m writing about was the worst summer since Satan fell or so we thought. The cities simmered to a boil in their lovely tarmac, bubbling down to heat stroke. Everywhere, they preached Armageddon like always and used 110 degrees for proof.

With no air condition, it was too hot to make love, even with fans at the head and foot of the bed making a middle turbulence. We couldn’t move after noon or sleep before midnight. How many hours can a person spend at Harts pushing a wire cart through the cans and bottles: 15 minutes to choose a sponge, ½ hour for a soft drink that only stays chilled straight out of the cooler box? Winter was a rumor that summer, each scarp overheated. We searched for anything cold and hid what we found.

It may be that we were brown and swam it. It may be when we could, we stepped down from the cliff into the icy river water imagining ourselves Cherokee just passing through or Quapaw or settlers who learned long ago to make some peace with the heat. Let’s just say the weather sweated us and we got no relief from those jumped-up preachers.

("down to the licklog" relates to an old rancher’s trick. The second-to-last thing before cattle were slaughtered, a ranch hand took them first to a salt lick and then to water to increase their butchered weight.)

From Chap Book, Platypus Press, UK, 2016

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Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books, and five chapbooks, most recently They Went Down to the Beach to Play, Locofo Chaps, 2017. Her poem, "Advice" was first published in AVENUE.

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