M. Scott Douglass


The couple across the street props
an old pallet dressed in red, white,
and blue like a flag in their front yard
beside another hand-painted sign
that reads, “Put God back in America.”
At Christmas, they host the neighborhood
dinner, make everyone pray before we eat.
A retired Marine, he lays his gun collection
across the bed where visitors store their coats.
In their not-so-private hours, we know
they curse Obama and witch hunts, chant
lock her up, build a wall, stop the steal. They go
to church each Sunday and Wednesday,
sing gospels with other faithful. We decked
our house with blue lights last year
and skipped the neighborhood dinner.
If the event ran true to form, some neighbors
arrived in wheelchairs, others hobbled behind
aluminum walkers. All held hands, said
a group prayer and praised Donald Trump,
then discussed church events, how wonderful
the dry ham is, healthcare costs, medications.
My hands would have sweat through all
the pretense and piousness. They’ve fenced
facts into a cage in the back yard, feed it
only when they can’t afford not to, invite
others over once a year to see how well-
behaved it is, how nicely they decorate
this world in which they’ve barricaded themselves.
I feel myself building a wall of my own,
one day at a time, one brick of truth mortared
to another. I’m already the neighborhood heathen.
Soon, they will cordon me off from the righteous,
censure me, protect the flock from anything
that might disturb the comfort of groupthink.


Mostly shirts, like new,
barely worn in over three years
because I can’t wear red anymore—
the color has been commandeered
by lurid ideology, corrupted
in ways that make me ashamed
to be seen wearing it in public.
Even certain shades of pink
and burgundy are now suspect—
though not abundant in this collection.
I would donate them all
to Goodwill, but I doubt anyone
who shops there would be more
comfortable in them than me,
and those who would shop
for items like these
need to pay a higher price.
I’d like to sell them as a group,
will accept best offer, but realize
the market for such things
is quickly shrinking.
I would turn them into rags,
but the color is now so stained,
I can’t imagine anything
it could clean.

Erasing a Color from Literature

“Better dead than red.” ~The Nation, July 9, 1930

Can we start with a version
where the wheelbarrow is green
or purple or orange?

I’m not paranoid, I’m
not paranoid, I’m not…

… a chicken. I’m a bluebird
scavenging seeds, scraps spilled
from a feeder up above,

wary of cats that lurk nearby,
hidden among the chaos
of apathetic undergrowth.


A buyer asked about a missing order:
When did it ship? When would it arrive?
Could I provide a tracking number?

His address was in Harmony,
Pennsylvania, a place I knew well
from a single visit long ago.

     I wanted to tell him a story
     about a Sunday night in 1979.
     It featured a young couple,
     a crying baby, a ‘65 Ambassador
     with bald tires, a blown head gasket,
     and a Dairy Queen manager who
     insisted an order be made
     before he’d lend his telephone.

Tracking said the package was
undeliverable as addressed and held
at the local Post Office for pick up.

I relayed this information
and tracking number to the buyer,
repressing an urge to say more.

     I wanted to tell him how I
     remember this tiny town
     beside I-79 with no
     northbound re-entry;
     how dark the highway;
     how cold the air; how dry
     a Brazier Burger tastes when
     bought with your last dollar.

M. Scott Douglass grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in Charlotte, NC. He is Publisher/Managing Editor of Main Street Rag, a Pushcart Prize nominee and NC ASC Grant recipient. His graphic design work has earned two PICA Awards and an Eric Hoffer Award nomination. Previous books include Just Passing ThroughHard to Love, Steel Womb RevisitedBalancing on Two Wheels, and Auditioning for Heaven.