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Wild Horses on the Outskirts of Memphis

by Randy Smith

Last night I dreamed Jesus returned.

He was supposed to plant his bare feet on two rocky mountains

somewhere in the Middle East,


burning the Hell out of whatever

scrub grows in such desert places, casting his wanton, piercing

glance to and fro,


to and fro, while lightning

sharp as razor blades rent the sky and zealous heavenly hosts

tracked down all the true


believers at home whipping meringue

for pie or shopping at Walmart for salty hams, candles, ammo,

and canned beans—


all those good people sporting

a hard-on for eternal life and finally being proved right

about the fine points,


even the broad strokes,

of politics, theology, and basic engine repair. But Jesus

showed up thin and stricken


with a herd of wild ponies

on a high, dusty plain out West. He asked directions to Memphis

and said he wanted to hear the Blues


again—the fierce, declamatory

vocal strokes, the syncopated drums beating out danceable rhythms,

the Howlin' Wolf, the jug-blown


bass. He looked hungry and tired,

wind-chapped, road-worn, and he still had a chipped tooth

from all his wasting shivers


on the cross in the dark

when his side was pierced and his pressure dropped and he hankered

for nothing more than a cold drink,


a paradox, like men do

when they exit a gun fight, lose blood, and finally see

their whole lives


flash before their eyes. He said

if he could just hear the Blues and get a cold drink, he would

livery the ponies at a good stable


on the outskirts of Memphis

where they could whinny, snort, and bray to all the bright, dying stars

stamped like broken clocks in the night sky.

About the Author

Randy Smith directs the BFA Program in Creative Writing at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. Previously he has published poetry in Ruminate, Tupelo Quarterly, and Yemassee. In 2018, two of his poems were finalists for the Tupelo Quarterly Open Poetry Prize judged by Denise Duhamel.

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