R. W. Haynes is Regents Professor in the Humanities Department at Texas A&M International University, where he teaches early British literature and Shakespeare. His recent publications include studies of playwright/screenwriter Horton Foote. In 2016, Haynes received the SCMLA Poetry prize at the Dallas conference of the South Central Modern Language Association. Two collections of his poems (Laredo Light and Let the Whales Escape) appeared in the summer of 2019, another (Heidegger Looks at the Moon) in 2021, and, in November 2022, The Deadly Shadow of the Wall was published.


Alapaha Flow

…like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains…
                       Tintern Abbey

Sometimes I meet a bounder
Who knew me when I was a rounder;
He grabs my hand
And says “Boy, have a drink!”
                        Jimmie Rodgers

The story of my life flows through shadowed limestone
With whiskey-looking water rippling over sand,
Going God knows where to sinkholes unknown,
Halting in swamps or making a calm stand
In long dark lagoons whose invisible flow
Finds ominous caves and silent tributaries,
And moccasins and gar, hoot owls by moon-glow,
Tune in to dark music the Alapaha carries.
Old Woodrow Wilson Wordsworth, young at the time,
Returned to the Wye half-devastated,
And wished on his little sister all of the sublime
Feelings he had outgrown but still contemplated.
I nearly drowned in this river one day,
Nearly bought the farm and floated away.


Chuck Berry Impersonator Knighted by Queen of the Night, Elopes with Lady Wrestler

“I know I left something somewhere, but I forget what it was.”


Though she was the poor man’s Elizabeth Bennet,
And he was no great prize on his own,
Each sat in the other’s mind on a throne 
Next door to a treasury with empty boxes in it.
As Fake Chuck motorvated toward the Channel,
They sang “Memphis” and then “Maybelline,”
And neither one wondered what their love would mean
If it ever got too true to handle.
Among his delusions and hallucinations,
Despite flirts with Furies, furious escapades,
He made up his mind to take a long vacation
From all the ghost stories his madnesses made.
Half-demented, shaken to the bone,
He tried to duck-walk with a half-Nelson on.

She chuckled at Chuck, as she danced like a snake,
Felt divine intervention in the wild ducks’ quacks
When the deathly clouds spattered cold rain on their backs,
And she shook like a tree the wind strained hard to break.
They’d try out the spectrum of strange coyote calls,
Make faces like maniacs in a crashing plane,
Laughing like crows in the January rain:
She knew in her heart she had love by the balls.
In First Corinthians, in Chapter Thirteen,
She’d learned that Paul of Tarsus was a lover,
And although the saint sadly knew nothing of her,
She’d still whisper to him, “I know what you mean.”
These four would make the best rock band of all,
“Chuck Berry,” Miss Lizzy, the poet, and St. Paul.


Being, Mas o Menos

Don’t call ontologists smug, she cried,
Unless you’ve felt their bitter heartbreak burn,
Or their terminology tremble and turn,
Late on bad nights when their dreams have died.
I’m joking, of course, she added suddenly.
Call them what you like, but just not here,
For this is a place of magic pleasure, dear,
And time collapses sideways for pedantry.
One cannot surrender to these cawing crows
And call oneself a lover worth his song
Or else one gets one’s truths and lies all wrong,
And God knows one must not err with those.
Let the desperate sort and shuffle names:
We leave alone those claims that no one blames.