I overhear a boy humming “Jolene” while he practices long division
and, sudden as a train’s blue note
—I know I don’t deserve it—
Dolly Parton becomes the president.
The West Wing’s garlanded in rhinestones, fringed
in bushels of Tennessee River pearls
while ambassadors wait on their whiskeys
because Dolly’s out in the Rose Garden
serenading troublemaker nuns and poll workers,
sunbathing marchers who need a rest,
and later there’ll be weddings on the portico
while sparrows feast on cornmeal flung
by drag queens shimmering in always golden-hour light.
In research labs they’re whistling, they’re twirling
their pipettes because there’s banana pudding
in the fridge, and they know Dolly’s working too:
today she’s sending picture books and wheelchairs
and antiretrovirals all across the heartland
and into every city, today she’s unraveling
acres of lace to wrap up every shivering mother,
today she’s going to call us darling
and we will believe, really believe, we are cherished—
and no, not even the miracle of Dolly
can sway the wildfires, not even
her limpid soprano can dredge all rivers,
but let me tell you, since Dolly Parton became the president,
strawberries taste right again
and they’re ripe all year long.
Carolyn Oliver’s (she/her) poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Sixth Finch, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, FIELD, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review, where she now serves as a poetry editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family.