Three Poems by Scott Owens


Nothing smells as wet
as peanuts boiling
in a blue metal pot
on an iron woodstove
surrounded by old men in overalls
and farmboys in caps
in a country store named Crooks or Norman’s
at an intersection with no light
in a place that couldn’t be called a town
but still has a sign that says
Midway, Stony Point, or Mock’s Corner.


Misunderstanding Elvis

We’re raising Sawyer Jewish,
but living in the South,
you can’t escape Christianity,
and she’s heard enough of Christmas
to know a bit about elves,
so when we visit Dairy Queen
and the local Elvis is singing
along the edge of the road,
she concludes he’s too big for an elf
and asks why Santa Claus
would call someone a Hound Dog.


According to Hollywood

They don’t ever get it right in the movies,
the places where poor people live.
All the dogs there have mange
and most of the houses too,
crumbling foundations, paint
cracked and peeling, blinds
that won’t close, front porches
packed with worthless junk
they’d never throw away,
yards cluttered and bare.
Even some of the people have mange,
missing arms or eyes,
smelling of booze and diesel fuel,
fingers stained by cigarettes,
faces older than their days.

We never owned a lawnmower,
not until I was seventeen.
Apartments never had lawns,
and nothing but scattered weeds
would grow from rock yards
along the tracks or up
from sand beneath pine trees.
And something was always broken,
reaching through the hole in the screen
to open the door, carrying
water from stove to tub,
leaving the lights on in one
room to illuminate another.

According to Hollywood
being poor means little more
than no shoes, a single-wide
trailer, clothes that are too big,
and a smudge that only helps
to make you even cuter.
In the movies, even the poorest
of kids are miraculously clean
and always happy despite
being hungry in all the ways
a child can be hungry.

11 Responses to “Three Poems by Scott Owens”

  1. I enjoyed all of these, most especially the last one. As you know, Scott, you’re one of my favorite writers.

  2. loved them, especially the first, soooo palpable! as for your last poem, i have to say there is an exception: “a streetcar named desire”. that got at the rot of it pretty well, n’est-ce pas? LOVE and félicitations! xoxoxoxoxoox

  3. I’ too’ like the last one best. I love “hungry in all the ways / a child can be hungry. “

  4. These are so spare and accessible and fantastic.
    Thank you, Scott!

  5. liked these, especially the last two.

  6. Sally Buckner Says:

    I can’t choose a favorite. But all do their work with tenderness and pizazz!

  7. i just love all these wonderful poems. what a gifted writer you are. thanks. best, winnie

  8. david labounty Says:

    According to Hollywood is excellent, glad I read it.

  9. Linda Lerner Says:

    Very good poems, Scott, especially (and in agreement with several others) the last one.

  10. Terrific poems, Scott. I especially like “According to Hollywood.”

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