Outside Crazy Horse

Outside Crazy Horse

M. Elizabeth Hershey

Outside Crazy Horse


Ryan Clark

for Vinson, Oklahoma, formerly a town, now an unincorporated community


At the end of a rain, at the end of our empire

this could have started, the lightning disfigures,

as storms do, with the rushing burning of buildings.

Vinson ran into the evening seared with ash

that rose to the air like stains of gray houses

coughing up their assurances.

There is a lesion we call history in this event.

We rebuild with frequency a new fire, form a town

upon the fullness of loss. Its story reenergizes.


In the endurance of need, there are thriving Vinson

churches, for the reach of baptism is serene and nearby.

In 1912, at a revival meeting, it was noticed that

many of the men were not present. The pool hall

was a painted noose around their necks.

The minister and ladies took the tables out and burned them,

and in the fire is a vision of survival, a light we would

recognize as a verse, saved in a phrase: for the dawn

stretches toward evening a harmony you call home.


Vinson was first named Francis, then fled east to Trotter,

then Purchase, and fed to the first site the name Vinson.

And the mighty herds of winter cattle lettered the area for ranching,

later rewritten by a new present shoving its homesteaded acres

into a lane running north and south. And a rush of hope

fused to a free people, lungs reveling a wide available air,

and Vinson held out fingers to the fingers all rustling

as if trees, and the early pioneers live in this enmeshed grip

as it grows with thousands of hands reaching in.


Even the town is at one time a child, softly formed

and nervous. It holds on while it can to a tally of resident

faces with full eyes that love the horizon. Often, the tether

to Vinson is faint, vanishing as days are, and the dry stem of home

is severed, wrung quiet. Drought shows us a way to leave, lights

out, trail of small dust plumes rising off the road.

Investing in place is awaiting damage, the shock we learn to dismiss

in the night as we lay awake, keys hanging fat on an ancient hook.

Quietly, prairie dogs relocate the farm, reestablish the town.

Ryan Clark is obsessed with puns and writes his poems using a unique method of homophonic translation. He is the author of How I Pitched the First Curve (Lit Fest Press, 2019), and his poetry has recently appeared in Yemasse, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, HOLD, and riverSedge. He currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa.

M. Elizabeth Hershey is a Philadelphia-based freelance photographer who specializes in events and weddings. She continues to pursue artistic endeavors from inks, painting, and paper designs to different photographic projects.