Last week my daughter, Jeri Fleming, gave a talk to the Locust Grove Chamber of Commerce about their problems with the creek that goes all the way through town. That’s where I lived before I ran away from home, about five miles outside town, and raised horses, cows, and kids. So I went with her.
To Wonder City Coffee. What an amazing place. I think it’s my favorite coffee shop ever. It’s not just a place for coffee and tea, but a meeting place for the community, a place to sit and read, a place to sit and gossip and tell stories.
Every table had some kind of game—chess, checkers, dominos and more, like a copy of the latest town newspaper. (This one had a feature about Jeri. She’s Assistant Director and Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Oklahoma Water Survey.) There’s a foosball table for kids of all ages. Sometimes they have tournaments.
You can see by the pictures the decor is practical nostalgia. The owner, Kelly Perkins Palmer, had a shop that sold old things, and the furnishings and
decorations came from there when her shop closed. 1950’s Formica tables, 1940’s and 60’s wood tables, old cabinets, an antique stove. A sofa and comfy chairs right in the front window where you can watch your friends and neighbors go by on the street—“Look who has a new truck!”—all kinds of wonderful old things like cabinets and pictures and wall decorations.
And best of all—a back room full of books to sit and read in comfortable sofas and chairs under a giant “crystal” chandelier. (I left my two books there if you want to go, have a cappuccino, and read.)
There were people of all ages there—teenagers playing foosball, the mayor, the Chamber members, little kids. And yet there was room for people who just wanted to come in for a think and a quiet pick-me-up of coffee or tea—iced or hot. And I saw a lot of I-Must-Resist drinks piled high with whipped cream go by. I also saw people I hadn’t seen in years. They didn’t look a day older, but then, neither do I, right?
I’m happy with my life now—I left Locust Grove a number of years ago—and I have grandkids who live there so I still visit. There is a part of me that wants to be able to go in to Wonder City Coffee (and books) every day to sit by myself and write or to talk to old friends and neighbors. The manager, Kelly’s sister Shaun Perkins, makes a great cappuccino.
Shaun is also grant coordinator of the Locust Grove Arts Alliance and director of the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry (ROMP) with a grant from the National Foundation for the Arts. That is how I got a free copy of Joy Harjo’s poetry book, How We Became Human, which I am enjoying. Shaun is a poet, free-lance writer, barista, and a Teaching Artist with the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Next to the poetry museum is a small AirBnB “Poets Retreat” house, with a replica of Emily Dickenson’s bedroom which Kelly designed. A place to reflect and relax and write.
The LG Arts Alliance has a Big Read grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. During National Poetry Month (April) they will focus on Joy’s book, and she will be in Locust Grove on April 26 and 27. She’s not only a poet, but a musician, a professor, and a performer. The culmination of her visit will be a performance in the LG Pirate Arena.
For such a small town nestled in the eastern Oklahoma foothills of the Ozarks, Locust Grove has a long and interesting history of artists and writers.
Check out the Poetry Museum and the writer’s retreat at ROMPoetry.com
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Joy Harjo’s book, How We Became Human, so far (I’m still reading):
I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice,
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart.
But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid