Friday, April 28, 2006

Milo: Quartet

I

In an act of
turn-of-the-last-century
hubris,
a bid for posterity,
immortality,
what-have-you,
or maybe just
to raise hell,
the postmaster,
by most accounts
no shrinking violet
at the best of times,
named the town after himself,
managing to scandalize both
Methodists and Presbyterians,
who, on general principle,
agreed on very little else.

II

Filled with Aunt Marge's
ham salad sandwiches
and lemonade
we walk gravel streets
and point to places that
have become stories:
where the big
peak-roofed livery barn
that became a
dustbowl Saturday night
picture show
weathered
and sagged down
under the weight
of its own ridgepole,
and was carted away
for antique barnboard;
the corner gas station
of white painted
false-fronted clapboard
where an uncle dealt Fords;
the cracked concrete pad
left from the big fire
when the ice arena
burned down
and a battered singlewide
now crouches on gypsy wheels,
one more shallow-rooted
Russian thistle;
the CPR railbed
from which track crews
tore the steel
two decades back;
the burial mounds
where a prouder town's
two grain elevators
stood up like promises
swaying against overwhelming sky.

III

Twelve miles down
a dusty road allowance
only one grey cedar fencepost
hung with a bleached cow skull
still rises above
flat, tough sod
to mark an old rival town
where my grandmother, briefly,
was an ingenue schoolma'am
before my grandfather
rode in on
a cutdown Model T racer
and swept her away
with the west wind.

IV

Under a hot blue sky
the wide prairie
shimmers and smoulders
drying Milo's edges
and crumbling them off.
The land's constant fire
will gnaw the town down
to nothing one day
and perhaps then spirits
of scandalous postmasters
scandalized Presbyterians
scandalized Methodists,
although not, I think,
their stories,
will finally
be laid to rest.
Will my family,
then, I wonder,
finally have come
from nowhere?

2 comments:

milo said...

I thought this poem was about me, until I got to the no shrinking violet part, although I have to admit scandalizing the odd Methodist. You forgot the Hungarian Partridge playing at the end of the 100 yard long main street, and too bad about that old swaybacked barn. Is the hotel still open? I need a drink.

coyote said...

Not sure about that hotel, anymore. I'm sure Claresholm or Vulcan'll work in a pinch. But apparently, we have Milos to go before we sleep...