Portrait of My Mother as the Republic of Texas
After my mother won independence in 1836,
she dysfunctioned as her own nation, passed laws,
erected monuments to men who would never again
be slaves to order and pain.
Remember the Alamo? That was my mother.
Then in 1845 that always-pleasing church-mouse voted
for annexation. My mother had too many selves and the desire
to enslave them all. Pregnant, she was forced
to become the twenty-eighth child of the American family.
Lone star no longer.
She joined a lineage of jacked-to-jesus hair, developed insatiable
cravings for honey barbecue. Her uncles sauntered up, stroked
the thin lace of her, declared she looked mighty good.
She let them say mighty good while grinning at one another.
Nothing grew then on the prairies of my mother.
Then she learned dissent, demanded men recognize her
sovereignty. She organized an embassy in a silver trailer
shaped like a virgin bullet. My mother renamed herself
The Republic of Texas, unfurled her flag all the way
into the 1980’s, when the Republic kidnapped her neighbors,
Joe and Margaret Rowe, to highlight abuses she’d suffered.
My mother was an American terrorist.
Don’t mess with Texas.
She died in the standoff. My new mother was elected
by a landslide and moved to Cuero, a city whose largesse
depends on retirement pensions. My peaceful mother
holds weekly rallies: “What do we want? When do we want it?”
Her lipstick stains the bullhorn mauve.
In her spare time, my mother receives foreign dignitaries
and does dry-wall. The Global Conglomerate of my Mother
opened her first staffed consulate in Barcelona.
She insists visitors speak American.
Currently, the Republic is facing lean times.
The former treasurer neglected May’s utilities,
refuses to return the funds. Pledge your support today.
My motherland is standing by
the rotary phone, waiting for your call.
Love her or leave her.
James Allen Hall’s first book of poetry, Now You’re the Enemy, won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the New York Foundation of the Arts, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center, as well as the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Recent poems have appeared in New England Review, A Public Space, and Ploughshares.
His second book, I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well, is a collection of personal lyric essays. The book was selected by author Chris Kraus as the winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Press’s Essay Award, published in April 2017 and winner of the 2018 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award for Nonfiction Prose.
His lyric essays have appeared in Story Quarterly, Bellingham Review, CutBank, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among others, and one essay was selected as a “Notable Essay of the Year” in Best American Essays 2016.
A partial list of his favorite writers would include James Baldwin, Federico Garcia Lorca, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, and Sylvia Plath.
Current Course: Fall 2019
Literary Editing and Publishing
Creative Nonfiction Workshop
Forms of Poetry
Global Research and Writing: Comic Women
Graduate Poetry Workshop
Introduction to Poetry
Living Writers: Lyric Nonfiction
Living Writers: Poetic Apertures
I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well (Personal Lyric Essays)
Devil’s Kitchen Reading Festival Award in Nonfiction
Cleveland State University Poetry Center Essay Collection Award
National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship
New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship
Lambda Literary Award for Gay Male Poetry
Helen C. Smith Award from the Texas Institute of Letters
George Garrett Award for New Writing from the Fellowship of Southern Writers
Maryland State Arts Council, Individual Award in Poetry (2017) and in Prose (2019)