Sketching Swain’s Flat

The seed of a poem was planted while passing through the small valley flat that borders the river. I was taken by a sense that an old vibrancy still lingers here, but is continually swallowed whole each year. My sketches here aren’t intended to offend anyone, as this is a special place. For several days in May, spring gushes forth dotted with a warm, light rain in the morning that sharpens the calls of birds, brightens flowers in the grass and seems like this is the way it always should be. But today this seems an empty celebration, and echoes of old summers still rattle the metal siding of an old shop, once a celebration of new business, prosperity, hope:

When Friday night beers lasted into the wee hours,

Giving way to a lazy sunday, maybe church and an afternoon alongside the big pool where the trail runs down to the river bar.

Now, tractors, rusted fossil heaps of dreams of better days,

And the old metal shop building that will groan again

in the summer heat soon to follow,

Now blackberry vines reach, before they wilt and tangle their thorny grasp around rusted projects

Along with everything else, on hot, windless afternoons.

All this has gone forgotten, or left for other times and new places, or just stopped.

It’s hard to tell on days like today.

Soon, summer will surely bake the ground into a hard, aching cracked memory

Of the place we see today,

And the old shack at the back of the field, quiet today

Again. The residents might stir once or twice,

But, passing by, we can’t help but wonder if they too lie in tangled heaps

Of the memories of life, family and stories that once filled the valley.

Now, while the river still runs fresh and cool, they haven’t noticed, or woken,

still sleeping hoping that these days are a dream and the 16 days of May

are just the soft pillow to whittle away their time.

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