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Ozymandias of the Plains

by Emma Aylor

                  Amarillo, Texas

I hear his legs just won’t stay naked. When the artist
sandblasts the socks, a new pair appears: turquoise blue,
once; white with red stripes at the tops; the American flag split
in two. The latter pair dressed the legs—severed by design—
when I saw them on the winter rangeland, the stump of the left
struck bloody with paint and initials. One tumbleweed enclosed
in the barbed wire around. Anything good requires a trespass,
though this didn’t feel near as secret as it should, I-27 rumbling
close (from which the monument, alone in the field, seemed slight).
In a graffitied iteration I didn’t see, the plinth was labeled SOUL
WHOSE INTENTIONS ARE GOOD, and maybe the objective stays
inscribed even under other intentions. Maybe we are good.
He keeps his stars to one calf; the rest is plain, and the tableland
leaves the two of us all too visible for whatever’s further above.

Emma Aylor is the author of Close Red Water, winner of the 2022 Barrow Street Book Prize. She lives in Texas.