Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Little Town

(Note: I wrote this in 1982.  Mostly, it's still true today.)

My Little Town

In my little town
dogs sleep in streets
and act affronted
when you drive on the bed.

My little town allocates resources
in proportion to priorities.
We have one school
two churches
and three bars.

Every summer some flatlander
driving through my little town
misses the curve or tries to pass,
and dies with his head
through broken glass.

The teenage boys in my little town
gather by the pond after dark
with big engines and little cans of beer.
They strip the Stop sign, stone the streetlight,
tear down a fence.  But at least
we know where they are.

In my little town some girls keep horses
in their back yards.  Above the dogs and surly boys,
they cruise on saddles astride a big beast,
dropping opinions as they meet.

There are more children than grownups
in my little town,  more dogs than children,
more trees than dogs,
more fleas than trees,
more slugs . . .
    and more slugs . . .
             and more slugs . . .

Standard equipment
in my little town:
    a chainsaw
    a pickup
    a kerosene lamp.

On the Fourth of July
the whole  little town
has a big picnic.

There is never a line
at our little post office.

The ducks on the pond in my little town
waddle across the road each afternoon
a milling, quackling crowd
round the door of the yellow house
where the lady gives them grain.
Mallards and barnyard hybrids
and one mean old bird that looks like a cross
between a turkey and a troll.  When it rains,
they swim on the road or sleep there, like dogs.
We had a goose that attacked cars
but somebody ate him.
We had a black swan, lovely, mean, aloof,
but somebody stole him.
We have great blue herons, sometimes,
if nobody shoots them;
and coots, always.
Beneath the surface are
bluegill, Budweiser, and bass.

From mountain streams the water
in my little town
tastes like algae and old pipes.

On a cold morning
the woodsmoke of stoves
clings to the redwoods like fog
in my little town.

We hold town meetings
where a hundred-odd cranks and dreamers
grope for a grudging consensus.

We cling to the side of our mountain
building homes, making babies
beneath trees of awesome height.
We work too hard, play too rough,
and sense daily something sweet about living
in our little town.

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