Stephen Roger Powers 


Step It Up a Little

Every man should learn to walk
in stilettos as high as Dolly Parton’s.

At first it might feel like leaning drunk
from a hotel balcony and looking down
at the bleach-light of a closed pool,
the spear points of the wrought iron
as sharp as the fingernails
that bang her banjo.

This brings up the question
of what’s better: breaking your neck
or impaling yourself?

It might also feel like falling off
the Cliffs of Moher, which, in my opinion,
is the five best seconds
of your life.

Her heel tips, small as circles
from a paper punch, leave
pockmarks on the hardwood hearts of men
like no one else’s.



My new neighbor is a tattooed train
whistle. The first thing blowing out of her
mouth when I mention
my love for Dolly Parton is plastic surgery—“Boobs”—
and she says I’m the weird one because I’m wondering
where her tattoos will go when she dies.
When no longer backlit with blood, won’t they look
like half-smoked Camels relit after shriveling
in the back yard a few days? Come October
she trick-or-treats in Tony
Lamas, a Stetson, a Wrangler
skirt, a Marilyn Monroe wig,
and a checkered shirt pinned inside with baggies
full of Jell-O. She expects extra
Snickers. When I’m out
of town a haunted house operator pays for her breast
implants. Then she moves into my flat.
She’s never been to Dollywood,
so she calls it Dollyworld.
This is where I start to get angry.
Lip-synching “9 to 5” on Halloween isn’t
the way to my heart. Pillow
talk is hard for me, because I read
lips. Turning the lights on
spoils the mood.



A half-inch of Ancient Age
on the bottom of the bottle and two Pall Malls
left, and this is enough to make up
one more song on the front porch.
My dark lawn in town is a music festival mud
field somewhere up the backroads, my brand of alt-country
hard and loud like fucking with your feet
on the headboard. Drunk walruses dance and slop beer
all over their mustaches and sun-lizard shoulders.
Armpits and arms. Coors cans high over their heads.
Maybe it’s time for a ballad about the white crappie
I reeled in once, how I remember going queasy
in my father’s praise while it suffocated on the pier,
but before I can pick another note,
Dolly Parton comes out in a blind surprise of cigarette smoke
parting like curtains. I’m surprised, all the walruses surprised,
a lot of drop-the-beer-and-throw-me-the-phone screaming
in surprise, Dolly on my porch stage, a song she’s picked out
about the stars over the mountains close enough to wrap
around her in a shawl of rhinestones,
her little arm around my waist,
those long, long nails
tapping on my hip,
and we just blow the beery walruses
away because I know every word and because
Dolly looks as ageless as unheard songs
written so quiet they don’t wake up the neighbors. 


Stephen Roger Powers has published his work in Shenandoah, Main Street Rag, Natural Bridge, and Comstock Review. The Follower's Tale, his first book, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2009. To help cover the cost of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, he moonlighted as a stand-up comedian in clubs and casinos around the Midwest. He now lives in Georgia, where he enjoys the beaches of Tybee Island. 


                                                                                                                return to poetry               home