Prairie Poetry   
  Camargo Septet

On little more than a simple shed
With board and batten walls,
The station master's bay
Protruded from the side
Just far enough so you could look
For trains that no longer came
On tracks that no longer existed.

Earthy potatoes perfumed
The claustrophobic aisles,
And the faintly bloody smell
Of fresh-cut beef,
Damp vegetables in their bins,
The pungent, confusing note—
Of Pinesol disinfectant everywhere.

On Saturday night
All the kids in town bought
Popcorn by the ten-cent bag,
Pulled up old folding chairs
And watched Gene Autry
Ride into a painted sunset
Somewhere else than Oklahoma.

Aunt Mildred and Uncle Herman
Drove two blocks from their house
To retrieve the peaches they'd picked
That August from a farmer's trees
And entrusted to the mortuary care
Of sulfur dioxide freezers
And an airtight box.

Neighbors did their weekly wash
In this brick-paper shack
Behind Aunt Lela's house,
Talked of other neighbors,
Talked of hard times, fears, hopes,
Poured all their pent-up pain
Out on the ground with the soiled suds.

This one blew away
In the tornado of 1954
Leaving only memories
Of fragrant pine and fir,
Dully gleaming brassware
And the grass-lined nests
Of mice beneath the floor.

How many funerals, weddings,
Choir practices, church suppers,
Sunday school classes, brimstone
Sermons and silent prayers
Have passed by in this plain
White wooden structure
With stumpy steeple, this shrine?

  John I. Blair
  Copyright © 2004 John I. Blair
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