Skip to content

Beth Ann Fennelly – Ⅰ

Autumn Comes to Oxford, Mississippi 




Beer can in the slackjaw mailbox near the liquor store,

slash of vomit beneath the bench fronting the courthouse–

yesterday’s homecoming.  On Jefferson, a rolled house,


fringed, underworldly–high school girls tossed

toilet paper bouquets into the arms of the oaks.

Gorgeous, actually.  Less so to the two bent in the front lawn,


tugging the streamers down before a rain plasters them.

The couple looks up the first time the car of girls

(friends of their son) squeals by.  After that, they keep gathering.


What’s the word for this kind of Sunday, grounds crew

emptying garbage bins foamy with bees, directing the port-a-johns

onto the trailers.  Down University Ave, a mother returns


from Walmart, stands beside her car.  Like sand bags

weighing down a hot air balloon, the dozen blue plastic bags

she holds which dangle at her ankles.  Head back, mouth open,


she watches a small plane which cleared the private airstrip

near the stadium.  Hundred and sixty bucks gone and for what,

she’d like to know.  Inside, her daughter pulls the tackle box


from under her bed where she keeps the love notes,

the diet pills.  It’s the first truly cold day.  Into the silent houses

the sugar ants march, looking like nothing so much


as a cartoon of conformity.  Mr. Simms stands at the cabinet,

pressing a finger onto each tiny ant.  There’s no sound

when they squish, absolutely no blood.  He looks up


as the high school marching band oompahs, loud

through the thinning trees.  Now Mrs. Mize’s bearded iris bulbs

close their eyes, thrust from their mesh bag into pockets of mulch.