Stephen Roger Powers

Only $2 to See the World’s Largest Model Railroad Display!

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Go there. You’ll see
little houses, little hills,
little cars, little redbud trees,
little bears, little wash
lines. The little plastic
people look like they’ll burst
alive in Halloos and Howdys
and Nice-to-see-yas
and clog dancing.
If you peek really close, down
in the corner, near the end
of the World’s Largest Model
Railroad Display, you’ll even see a little
person (maybe she’s a little
girl and her name is Wanda
Parlapiano) diving into a little
swimming pool, little legs sticking out
of the little glassy fake water
like the ends of broken hairpins.
There I decided on my new
hobby—model Dollywooding.
I will build the World’s
Largest Model Dollywood
Display, complete with working
steam train, parking lot,
trash collection service,
bluegrass theater, backporch
ham & beans restaurant with
pie tins, fruit jars, and picnic tables,
lye soap stand, kiddie tree house,
homemade candle store, sausages
frying, little ducks quacking
in spring rain puddles, season
pass photo booth, and maybe
even a tiny little miniature Dolly
Parton on a buggy that putts
through the miniature park
as she waves to all the little fans
that are too small to paint faces on.

After Her Parade

The lights are off, everybody’s gone
home. Dolly walks alone through Dollywood.
She listens to her heels tap like whatever

raps lightly on my bedroom door.
The wooden gristmill wheel creaks, lumbers
round and round. She stops,

feels on her fingertips
the electricity in an eagle’s fallen 
feather, smells the dead fires

that have cooked glass, potatoes,
sausages, and horseshoes all day.

She enters her new Chasing
Rainbows museum, steps down

the grand staircase, one hand
on the railing, one hand
over her heart. Her old dresses hang

empty on display, video screens
toss shadows, a wall of magazine
covers grins back at her.

She closes her eyes, dreams of her
coat of many colors gliding
arms outstretched in the wind over autumn
leaves and wildflowers,

sings a few lines of “Wayfaring
Stranger” loud enough so she echoes
and the sequins and rhinestones on

all the dresses
jingle like the bead curtain
over my entryway back home.

Dolly and the Frog Strangler

I was writing a song with Dolly when we ran out of gas
near exit 201 going south through a sudden downpour in Indiana.
The first verse was something about how hay bales grow
darker in the rain and the sides of barns turn from red to brown.

We were also hauling a Dolly Parton pinball machine by Bally.
The backglass was in the backseat. The playfield, with rubber
flippers intact, cartoon Dolly barefoot in denim shorts, was too big to go
in the trunk all the way. It hung over the bumper by bungee cords. Every bump,
my worn-out shocks groaned and banged like rickety roller coasters.

We waited for a trucker to bring us a gallon. Hail popped on the roof
like too many warped records playing at the same time. We were bored,
looking for ways to amuse ourselves. Dolly tapped her dragon lady nails
on the dashboard. I used my sleeve to wipe away windshield fog.

After we hummed a middle C we wrote the second verse,
something about long hair between your lips and mountain berry shampoo
scent in your nose when you kiss someone in the wind.

We rolled down the windows to let the storm heat evaporate
some of the air conditioning. Dolly’s wig got tangled and wet.
The strangest thing was happening: The pinball machine
kept flashing hot pink and lavender.

Maybe lightning hit the cord trailing behind. Or else something lit it
up from our mind’s eye that saw corn tassels rolling in this gully washer
over the fields as applauding hands of cheering crowds.

Our chorus was something about how you look out
your rearview mirror and it’s still visible after a mile
passes, maybe two if the countryside is flat, but then it fades
away and is gone, and you can’t remember anymore what mile
marker it was by when you passed it.