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poetry Iowa Requiem, 2018

Peter Carroll’s visit to Perry, Iowa gives no warning of sudden violence that occurred there this week, except for feelings of despair that might afflict a troubled young man with nowhere to go.

Iowa Requiem, 2018

By Peter Neil Carroll

                                    I dream from one absence to another—Pablo Neruda

Perry, Iowa, a dot on the map, struggles to survive,

its murals honor those earnest

small-town fixtures, lived before they died.

Charles Joy, “Such, such were the joys”


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At town’s edge, cornfields crawl to the last

ramshackle shacks, open horizons swerve

full circle, from planet’s rim to starry abyss.

Fred Malick, Postman, walked 21 miles a day.

In liminal light, flatlands crackle in unbroken

wind before tense settlers chose sycamore  

to shadow the bare sun, hug icy-white nights.

Virginia Green, “My favorite hobby is people.”

Early spring, low hills still shine lime green,

earth mineral-rich black, unnatured, Big Ag

grows on Big Gov cash, wind all-electric.

“Have you taken your disposition pill today?”

 Horace Lewis, Religious leader

Two billboards corrupt the view—each targets

women (Varicose Veins) (The Choice that Kills).

What’s the point?  No one is here to read them.

Bette Mae Harris, Dancer, “Talk of the Town”

As river floods or drought push folks from the land

onto city lots, the merchants plot, install red-brick shops,

a grand hotel, churches, schools, the Carnegie shelves.

John Turner, Teacher             “He made me want to learn”

Gone, the family farm. Gone the farmer, his wife also

gone. Even the black night, silence of stars, killed

by cherry-red lights blossomed on whining windmills.

Cornelia Bulkley, “They always pick on me.”

Peter Neil Carroll has written poetry about midwestern towns in several collections, most recently in This Land, These People, the 50 States (2022) which won the Prize Americana from the Institute for the Study of Popular Culture.