What is left after nothing is left









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Small towns. A few houses and a general store.
The map might show only one road going through,
but if you keep driving around long enough,
you begin to understand how they’re connected.
There are back roads running in all directions.
You just have to get out and look for them.

People living out there have known each other
for a long time. They still have family reunions
in late August, on plank tables under the trees.
Places with names like Hadley, and Springtown,
and Coatesville. Most of them manage to keep
a grain elevator going, maybe a post office.

I’m a real-estate appraiser. These days
I spend a lot of time out looking at farms.
I’ve got a bunch of good maps in my car;
old ones, too. You don’t want to come back
to town and admit you couldn’t even find
the place you were looking for. Or got lost.

One day last September I was driving along
a gravel road between Clayton and Hadley, using
an old county map. Up ahead was a little town
called Summit, that had been a flag stop once,
on a spur slanting off from the main line
to Terre Haute. That spur’s been gone for years.

Summit was gone, too. But I found it, after a while,
figured out exactly where it had been,
right at the top of a long rise you could see
stretching for miles across the countryside.
Nothing out there now but lots of beans and corn,
blue sky and clouds. Not even fence rows anymore.

You could almost imagine the train heading west,
up that long grade, pouring on the coal, making
for high ground. When it finally pulled in,
and the telegraph man came out for the mail,
there would be a couple of little kids sitting
on the baggage wagon, waving to the engineer.

I walked up to the only place it could have been.
Right there, at the crest of the hill. Somebody
had kept it mowed. There was a strong wind blowing.
I searched around in the grass for a long time,
but I couldn’t find anything. Not a trace.
Only the land itself, and the way it still rose up.

Jared Carter


Old Locksley takes sanctuary deep in the cavernous gloom of his house


from Old Locksley among the Ruins:

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  It was later that year,
after weeks when the heat of midsummer
had driven Old Locksley to seek the shade,
had driven him, like a disgruntled bear,
to take sanctuary deep in his house,
deep in the cavernous gloom of his house,
with bats in the attic and dripping eaves
and high steepled windows where mystics, monks
and martyrs shone softly in sunlit glass
it was later that year, after summer’s heat
had driven Old Locksley into the hushed
recesses and curtained-off rooms of his house
a house that was more a cavern than house,
with ivy-encumbered and blackened stone
and deeply-set doorways encased in vine
or more like a mausoleum, perhaps,
with its bordering arbor vitae and yew
with crumbling foundation and groaning pipes
and crickets in corners, its redolent rooms
provisioned with humidors of tobacco
and crystal decanters of peaty scotch,
its snug little hideaways fitted out
with old leather sofas and mica lamps
enveloped in amber light  it was later,
much later that year that Locksley, at last,
emerged amid whirlings of leaves released
from willow and maple to clutter the air
all about his head and skitter across
the garden to lodge in the lower boughs
of the conifers  it was later that year
that Locksley returned to his garden seat,
returned to consider and contemplate
the melancholy decline of the year,
the shedding of gold and of crimson leaves,
the dropping of berries and migrating flocks
of sparrows in spruces, and all the subtle
foreshadowings of the coming cold . . .

BJ Omanson


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