Poetry Feature

Arkansas, The Natural State
I stood today on top of Petit Jean
And felt a kindredship to all I found,
And I, intrigued by such a lovely scene,
Was grateful for the beauties that abound.
The spirit of a mountain miss was host,
Her phantom figure hovered, light as wind,
And I became enchanted by her ghost,
As we stood on the ledge at river’s bend.
I asked her of her legend and its truth;
Of how she stowed away to sail from France,
Of how she cropped her hair; became uncouth,
To give her love and lover one more chance.
            “It is all truth; the future will proclaim
            My spirit guards this mount which bears my name.”
 
Then, as we talked, my personage subdued,
And I became, as Petit Jean, a ghost,
And with uncanny knowledge I reviewed
Historic deeds of others who could boast,
Of coming to this great green state to live;
To homestead and to plow their plots of land;
To mine the hills; to hunt the woods and give
Their very lives to make it far more grand.
I spoke to men who also came to look
For ways of life upon the river’s road;
They pushed their crafts to every shallow nook
And rounded bends of hardship with each load.
            The Indians told me their tales of woe,
            Of how they battled as both friend and foe.
 
They told me how De Soto searched for gold
And, trudging through the swamps to look for it,
As upward, through the mountains and the cold,
He traded with the natives, matching wit.
La Salle then came to claim the Arkansas
But left to join another group of men,
De Tonty came to start, as did John Law,
A river post where trading could begin.
These men with whom I talked could really boast
Of being first to settle on this land,
Of fighting long and hard to save the Post
Where then was housed the laws and all command.
            My spirit saw the past and lived it through,
            A vision of the old when it was new.
 
As history passes, the seasons came in view,
And time and space and beauty knew no date.
I saw each month in its most brilliant hue
And gazed at it as if I tempted fate.
 I looked at Spring and thought it surely best,
For everywhere the land was newly green,
The pristine white of dogwood seemed to test
The worthiness and beauty of each scene.
Then summer came with nesting meadowlarks,
And I beheld the golden days of fun,
As tourists came with camping gear to parks,
And found their pleasures under shade and sun.
            I watched the summer visitors with awe,
            They loved this state of mine . . .this Arkansas.
 
Perhaps they liked spelunking in a cave,
Or digging for a diamond at the mine,
Or floating trips that made of them a slave
To mountain streams, to setting out trotline.
Perhaps they liked the baths at old Hot Springs,
Or climbing under rushing waterfalls,
Or smelling the sweet air that summer brings,
Or listening to whippoorwills’ faint calls.
I think they surely liked the little creeks,
That tumble down deep-set against tall bluffs.
I think they liked the deer and quail that seeks
New hideouts when invaders find their roughs.
            The eager tourists came to see our state
            Because the opportunities are great.
 
Then suddenly, as Autumn took her turn,
The Ozark Hills became a brilliant hue.
In blazing reds the forest seemed to burn
Across the valleys, up the mountains too.
In delta lands I saw vast cotton crops,
And harvest fields of rice, bowed down with grain.
The short-leaf pines were green with heavy tops,
And muscadines hung heavy down the lane.
Then winter came attired in snowfall white,
And lovely landscapes suddenly seemed bare.
The prairie sky was filled with ducks in flight,
And sounds of happy hunters filled the air.
            O Arkansas, which season is your best?
            Each one seems far more lovely than the rest.
 
What makes you great?  I wondered as I looked.
Is it your timber, standing straight and tall?
Is it your rivers wide and roughly crooked?
Is it your lovely Ozarks in the fall?
Is it your heritage that makes you grand,
Your opportunities . . . yet still unknown?
Is it your rich oil fields, or delta land
That makes men proud to choose you for their own?
O Arkansas, I see your very breath,
In hazy clouds that skim your vast terrain.
I know about your struggling with death
And I have felt your birth with labored pain.
            O land of mine, I find you truly great,
No wonder you are called “The Natural State”.