American Gothic

after Grant Wood

She sits in her Adirondack chair
on the front porch of a summer afternoon,
overlooking the cutting garden
in her Confederate flag t-shirt
knitting shotgun shells with a pair
of ramrods. Her twelve-gauge
is propped against the banister next to
an old bloodhound yipping in his sleep
and on the side table a tea service
holds black powder in the china pot,
buckshot in the cup.

In the barn, he practices his thrusts
and parries using the pitchfork
with tines sharpened to needle points.
His camo t-shirt offers no place to grip
in hand-to-hand combat,
the same for his shaved head.
He tries not to gag on the tobacco chaw,
spitting the juice just as he would
into the eyes of an attacker
as he buries the fork chest high
into the king post before rejoining her
on the porch. Together they sip their
Red Bulls and wait for another painter
to come looking for America.

About the Poem

Our country has become so inured to violence that Grant Wood would be hard-pressed today to find a peaceful couple to represent us.

About the Author

Tom Barlow has published nearly two hundred poems and short stories as well as four novels. See more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *