Observer, March 20 

The thousands of birds you've seen flitting from tree to tree in every neighborhood lately are cedar waxwings. Tens of thousands, really, of these astonishing-looking birds, faces masked, wingtips dipped in red “wax” and tail-feathers in yellow, are on the move. Just outside the Observatory, in a small section of sky, we can see several hundred circling over the intersection of Markham and Scott streets and swooping in on the hollies growing at the Statehouse Convention Center below. They've got the Canadian woods on their minds as they strip the berries off the trees of Little Rock; soon we'll look up and not see even one.

What sort of grown-up flips the bird at teen-agers? Oh well, they only got two fingers and one thumbs down from passersby, report the girls who joined the anti-war demonstration Saturday in War Memorial Park. Like the cedar waxwings, to perhaps carry the bird theme to the brink, the group — a respectable 150 at one point — descended on the corner of Markham and Van Buren with their signs, “Peace — Bring it On!” and so forth. Three belly dancers, their pantaloons made of gauzy flags, moved their hips to music. Fortunately, there were no collisions at the intersection.

The group — mostly over 50, if we observed correctly, including war veterans and veteran protestors — had processed to the corner from the park pavilion after the delivery of inspirational speeches from a legislator, a peace group leader, a veteran and a preacher, the last making the particularly stinging remark that the press reports more on the $4,000 earned by a “gubernatorial hooker” than the nearly 4,000 American deaths in Iraq.

A fellow protester turned to The Observer and asked, Why doesn't the press report the huge number of Iraqi dead? Why don't we hear at least an estimate of innocent lives lost from the American press? Other countries do not flinch at such facts. Real news has become an unfilled niche in American journalism.

Here are some numbers. By October 2006, according to the Lancet medical journal, 655,000 Iraqis had been killed, mostly by terrorist and sectarian violence. That was a year and a half ago. Some estimates now put the toll at more than 1 million.

Arkansas has lost 59 people.

Ed Madden, a native of Newport and associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina, will be in Arkansas in April for the Literary Festival touting his new book of poetry, “Signals,” published by the USC Press. It includes this composition named for the town most known as the birthplace of our governor:

Amagon, Arkansas

after David Baker

Small towns puncture the highways leaving / Newport, the county seat, their smallness a kind / of grace. Everything has been left out

to weather — a car on blocks, rocking horse / faded to dusty blue. Driving through / is the prevailing point of view. There is

a portable sign in front of the store, where / the specials every day are staples: bread, / milk, ground chuck, and what's not advertised —

Shirley's crafts scattered across the shelves / on the back wall, Wayne's take on the weather. / There are stacks of snuff and Skoal cans

at the register. A box beneath the counter / has all the tabs, credit where credit is due. / Across the street at church, sermons rarely

leave casualties. Attendance is the only virtue / left; gossip and family take care of other / sins. Once a train ran through town,

but now just tractors and plows, pickup trucks / on the way to Walart, the big stores in Newport. / Or the John Deere dealer in Weiner, where

they have the rice festival every year, / cooking contests and beauty queens, harvest / longings transliterated as civic pride. Nothing

is lonelier here than attention. This is the season / when crop dusters are blamed for everyone's dying gardens.


Sign up for the Daily Update email


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Readers also liked…

  • The sweet hereafter

    This week, the Arkansas Times falls back on that oldest of old chestnuts: a recipe issue. Being who we are, of course, we had to put a twist on that; namely, the fact that most of the recipes you'll find in these pages are courtesy of people who have shuffled off to that great kitchen in the sky, where the Good Lord is always whipping up new things in his toque and apron, running the great mixers of genetics and time, maybe presenting the batter-dipped beaters and bowls to Jesus for a lick down.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • On Walmart and state money

    No they don't need state help. Any conservative legislator who is true to their tea party principles will crow on about crony capitalism. I look forward to deafening silence.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • On shitholes

    The Observer is at home today in our kitty cat socks, weathering a combination sick day and snow day. Way down in Stifft Station, we live at the top of a hill that slopes away in all directions. That's good in a flood, but piss poor other than for sledding during snow and ice, especially when you only have access to a two-wheel drive car.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in The Observer

  • Cathode ode

    There's been an addition to the Observatory lately, one that's so old, it's new again to us — broadcast television.
    • Jul 12, 2018
  • After midnight

    For the past two years, The Observer has lain awake in bed at least one or two nights a week and wondered if I have failed to prepare my son, as my father prepared me, for what could reasonably be coming in this terrible new age.
    • Jul 5, 2018
  • Control

    The Observer is ancient enough to remember when there was some semblance of civility in politics — when you could talk about a subject in mixed company without devolving into tribalism, each member eventually backing away slowly with their respective knives unsheathed and at the ready, each resolving to let the other stay mired in his or her stupidity.
    • Jun 28, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Paris pleads guilty

    • Twila Paris and family need to stop speaking out of both sides of their mouths…

    • on July 15, 2018
  • Re: Paris pleads guilty

    • Twila Paris and her family need to stop speaking out of both sides of their…

    • on July 15, 2018
  • Re: MAGA

    • The trade war started after NAFTA and the WTO were signed by Bill Clinton and…

    • on July 14, 2018

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation