In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Heartland, and: Hey Y'all Watch This, and: Self-Portrait as a Series of Bluffs, and: Praise Song for the Redneck Riviera
  • Chris Hayes (bio)


I'm talking to R. about the day's news: wildfire, Trump, Nicaragua,    moving from one slice of unnatural disaster to the infinite next,when it occurs to me that we haven't heard from Kansas    in a while, not a place I'm usually concerned about because

I don't live there, and ever since Tornado Alley shifted farther    to the southeast, I haven't given it much thought beyond it beinga launchpad to Oz in a technicolor memory of an America    that persists for exactly half its citizens, while the rest of us dream

our way out of the farmhouse and into Silicon Valley, LA, NYC,    wherever isn't "flyover country," which of course includes Kansas,quiet neighbor in the middle of our double-ended cul-de-sac    there's no way out of, so we all have to get along but don't really,

and so stay quiet in our home states until some national rage    brings us out into the streets with dollar-store tiki torchesand counterproductive love, and when the blood settles    in our boots and brains, and the singing stops, and the cops

are still the cops, I don't fear any less any part of all this,    my red/blue border-loving, cheeseburger fanatical veganprayer machine in an atheist dance-hall nation that refuses to collapse    despite recent efforts, so I worry my little stone down

to a brittle chip beneath my thumb until it breaks like hard soil    in a California forest accepting fire, and before we know itsome new apocalypse will move in with a name like gold,    and if the rest of the wild Bonanza map of us starts to burn [End Page 83]

at the edges, where else might we go besides ecumenical Wichita    to stitch ourselves to whatever's happening amid the wheatI imagine must still be there, growing out of the dust, the past    and present anthem we all stop singing before it gets too dark. [End Page 84]

Hey Y'all Watch This

I yelled it for the first time standing on a roof's edgelike all those other idiots you've seen in videos.Shirtless, greased with sun, ready to jumponto a four-wheeler idling belowto impress a girl, but not just any girl,my brother's, who became his wife, then his ex,tired of his addictions, which he learnedfrom our dad, who once drove his motorcyclethrough a high school gymnasium. He didn't wreck,didn't drown when he jumped off a bridge,cannonballing into the Cumberlandto snatch a water moccasinwhile his wife looked away. This phrasebranded across my tongue. Uttered everywherein the South, I heard it holleredso many times, it was like church bellsringing from heights no oneshould shout down from: here I come.Such Hee Haw heroics, thinking a crowd's applausecan buoy us up enough to not crash-landin the hospital or rehab, paper wings aflame.We're not the only ones. If risk were our territoryalone, there'd be no Voyager missions,less art wrecking the dictator's breakfast,hardly a fish-eye lens aimedat the dust cloud of a riot. No onewould dive into love or sing about it,karaoke-drunk. Though I'll admit that nobodydoes duh like we do. Our brand of hold-my-beercalamity inspires breathless backstepping,necks craned, arms held open,as one solid mass of human doofussteps to the roofline,repeats the catchphrase of his people, and leaps. [End Page 85]

Self-Portrait as a Series of Bluffs

Boys I loved to follow in the dark         climb upfind me               on that bluff above the rivermuddy swirl sparked with stars         I feltsomething break apart                 my head saying

hang back         they won't love you like you love themyou'll have to pedal home         bewildered againrecall your icy chest         how a startled dove

exploded out of the sleeve wind...


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