Sunday, April 1, 2012

Small town like coffee with cream

It is like strong coffee with cream in it, on a Sunday morning. Both bitter and smooth, in the same mouthful.
I am trying to figure out small town America. You would think, after all this time, I would understand, but I don’t.
“A place between two stands of trees,” as Adrienne Rich says. Rich died this week of complications related to Rheumatoid Arthritis, I think before she figured it out. But she was chasing the right clues. “Talk about trees,” she advised. I am with her.
I took a photo in a small town, of the stream that flows through the center, and empties in to the lake. I took another of an old Plymouth in front of the old town’s buildings, as one nears the lake… and another as the twilight reflected off its surface near the Gazebo. Not sure you can find a more welcoming sight.
There has been trouble in town, however. Early last month, the town hall was torched in the middle of the night, burned to the ground. Look at the lot over there behind the Post Office and you can barely tell there was ever anything there.
The lady fishing at the lake shakes her head in wonder.
Town Hall is important, history, presence, sense of identity. As one local educator said to me, “It is a part of us.”
Another poet, earlier than Rich, may have been wishful thinking.
Reverend Graham Frank described it in 1889.

“Here the children dwell in safety,
As they play by the streams;
And their elders all are happy,
With ease and rest and dreams,
And the mountains hold this village,
In the tenderest embrace,
While the trees and streams and sun and moon,
Lend their beauty to this place.”

True poetry. And like it, maybe you are never supposed to understand. Ambiguous, vague, wooly, hazy and uncertain. Both bitter and smooth in one mouthful … one more Sunday morning.

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