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BOOKS & THE CULTURE When I Stopped at the Exxon in Jourdanton For Tom Walters, in memoriam When I stopped at the Exxon in Jourdanton, where blue men in plastic booths talk, or sip their coffee, or spit tobacco in styrofoam cups, I thought of you When I drove the patched roads past producing leases with yellow flags Warning: Poisonous Gas, And when I got to the farm, and the lock had been changed, and I didn’t have the key to get in, And the roadrunner atop the gate post scampered down and ran away clattering “Trespasser! Trespasser!” And I wrestled the welded gate from its hinge and hobbled with its unsteady weight. I saw how green the new leaves are fresh as wounds; I saw the string joining the furrows like suture led to the wreckage of a home-made kite gone down; I saw the mesquite split by the storm last summer late open to the hard grain weathering, and I thought of you When the shrike snagged the rough-skinned lizard and flew to the fence and skewered it there on a barb like jerky to cure. Shopping Cart A man in filthy clothes pushes his stuff up a steep hill in a shopping cart. A woman pushes her children up the same steep hill. A boy pushes his parents uphill. A young woman with a career and children puts the kids in the shopping cart and turns around just for a moment, and the cart’s already rolling downhill. She’s running after them but the hill is steep and she’s wearing high heels and stockings and there’s no way she’ll catch them in time. A middle-aged man with house payments and car payments puts his vocation in the shopping cart. He installs an alarm system in the cart, but a couple of kids steal it anyway and he’s chasing them down the same steep hill. A junior high girl goes shopping with her parents. She puts them in the shopping cart \(or maybe they climb in when she tells them to, At the top of the hill, the factory that manufactures shopping carts is making plans to move their operation overseas. Halfway down, runaway carts collide with carts inching uphill. The people chasing carts are cursing the people pushing carts and vice versa it’s the first time they’ve ever exchanged words. At the bottom of the hill is the store where some people are filling carts and pushing them to their cars while other people are rounding up empty carts and pushing them in shopping cart trains on wobbly wheels to the sidewalk where they lock them up each night with chains. ROBERT A. AYRES Robert Ayres grew up in San Antonio and continues to manage his family’s ranch on Barton Creek southwest of Austin. In 1993 he received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. His poems have appeared in Cumberland Poetry Review, The Marlboro Review, Southwest American Review, Concho River Review, and Borderlands. As one who has had the pleasure of sitting in the audience when Bob Ayres reads his poems, I can testify that he brings stunning muscle and vigorously true breath back into spoken language, and if any of you out there are running a reading series, you’d do well to invite him. Naomi Shihab Nye The Observer’s poetry page is partially funded through a grant from the Austin Writers’ League in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 16, 1999