They moved the town from its perch
above the river. They abandoned the mill
and its race. They hauled three hotels,
plank by plank, in wagons to the railroad
crossing one mile east. They moved
the bank. Bottle by bottle, they dragged
the saloon and the mercantile. And what
of their homes? These they abandoned.
And there, one mile east and exposed
to the wind warping through at the confluence
of hope and profit gleaming in their wallets,
they built of stone. Of stone up went
the opera house and all the red facades.
Of stone too then the churches, Lutheran
and Catholic, while the Methodist, the Baptist
hunched, clapboard on the edge of things.
Up went the grand Victorians and soon
the catalogue homes, squat in their reveries.
And let’s not forget the grain bins, fat
with pride and commerce. Let’s not forget
the streetdance and the immigrant
wives. Let’s not forget the horses and the cars
that ate them. Let’s not forget the school
and the children who ran away to school.
Let’s not forget the railroad and the collapse,
nor shop the empty windows nor mind
the long commute. Let us not cringe
in the bleak mouth of winter nor despise
the council of the newly mobile, slummed
on the south side of things. The motel is full
now. And let us not forget the mill
and its long arm still dipped in the river.