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Listening to the (Dixie) Chicks after America Invades Iraq, the Year I Came Out

Issue 111, Winter 2020

Drawing by Michelle Marchesseault

Driving by kudzu, under oblong leaves
of live oaks as their roots knuckle up,

past the trawlers, who dredge pretty pink shrimp
from the belly of the coral-lipped sea,

war’s on, whether we say yes to it or no. “Let’s go
for a ride, Earl, hey,” sings a girl

on her softball road trip: turn the radio up! 
And doesn’t she feel it’d be good to kill

that bad Earl if he hurt her friend, to fly
on a red-eye home to hold her hand?

And doesn’t she feel it’s good to vote red
like her daddy when he tells her it’s good

to be good like daddy? Years later, fire licks 
the oil fields on TV, “Push on,” the President says,

and everybody on this bus claps, turn the radio up.
But when the song comes on, it hurts her 

and us—hey, hey, hey—how this nation lays welts
there and here, wherever a big man touches,

raising the flaming circle of his face
above us like an idol. I was ashamed

for loving it: the swagger, the sugar, the diesel
in my big tank on the big, open, take-what-you-want road.

I loved it as much as I hated
who I became in it, taking or being taken. The last time I lied

under a man and didn’t want it was in the back
of a pick-up truck, and it was in the South.


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Nomi Stone

Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone is the author of three books, most recently Pinelandia: An Anthropology and Field Poetics of War and Empire, finalist for the Atelier award (University of California Press, 2022). Her poems appear in the Atlantic, POETRY, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, the Nation, and the New Republic.