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She has maintained a steadfast and prudent distance

From places she would have to fabricate answers to tiresome inquiries:

The ageless Rexall pharmacy, the gas pumps at the Kwik-Fill,

The scruffy, three-checkout Market Basket,

(Though that entails driving to Bradford or Dubois for groceries,

Inconvenient at the best of times,

Outright hazardous in cases of inclement weather)

But her resolve can be a fleeting thing,

So oftentimes she will yield

To the siren song of the produce aisle,

Where she will, with what forbearance she can bear,

Submit to the interrogative small talk

Lobbed her way like so many verbal mortar shells

By squinting, smirking long-time acquaintances,

All variations upon the inquiry Why’d you come back?

 

All homecomings are secondary to some departure,

Mostly the mad flight of one marooned by birth,

Deciding, through some alchemy of grit and desperation,

That they cannot face a life of a spot on the line at the mill,

A haphazard and half-hearted marriage with the requisite offspring,

To be finished up with an unremarkable stone on Bootjack Hill.

Her farewell was not such a notion, not in the least;

She was beautiful, not small-town pretty

In the lead-in-the-senior-musical sense,

But breathtakingly so, the kind of radiance

Which held up to the forty-foot screen of the drive-in in St. Mary’s.

There was no question that she would go, must go,

As if the notion of her staying was absurd, even obscene;

So she went, to New York for a brief spell

(She found it gray and cold in every sense of the word)

Then later to Southern California,

Which she found, if nothing else, somewhat more comfortable.

She did not fail (to be fair, her beauty was of a type

Which transcended mundane concerns such as locality)

Securing bit parts on screen here, the odd photo shoot there,

Not well-off, perhaps, but living well enough,

Free from the endless cast-iron skies and dirty slush of January,

The pointless yet sacrosanct internecine struggles

Which rolled unheedingly across the generations,

The stifling intramurality of the tiny lives in tiny mill towns.

 

And yet she came back, with neither warning nor fanfare,

Greeted by a cacophony of mute and uncomprehending stares,

As if she were some spectre, lovely and yet unwelcome,

Dredging up emotions best forgotten,

Half-truths not bearing the weight of re-examination,

Any number of errors of commission and omission best left buried.

She will, on occasion, make her way to a barstool at the Kinzua House

Where she receives drinks and further ministrations

From out-of-town hunters or younger townsmen

For whom she is not an icon or grail,

And if she is asked what brought her back to the cold cow country

She would say, a bit acerbically but melancholy as well,

At some point, you get tired of being a commodity,

Just something to weighed and assayed,

Your face worth this, your ass worth that,

But, if she was deep enough into the evening’s proceedings,

She would murmur snippets of odd things:

How the falls would pour like the cheers of thousands

Over the spillways of the dormant mills,

The spectacle of the sand swallows returning

(Brown, chunky, unremarkable things

Skimming the disintegrating chain-link

Which surrounded the abandoned middle school)

To the abandoned gravel pit just below the cemetery,

The herds of elk, reintroduced by the state conservation boys

In a futile and wholly romantic gesture,

Which have not only survived but prospered on the hillsides out of town,

And if those who knew her when overheard her,

They would whisper among themselves

As to how she was clearly on the run from something,

And how everyone knows that the unrelenting SoCal sunshine

Can lead someone from a place like this to madness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

    • Glen Russell Slater
    • Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:42 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    http://pennsylvania.hometownlocator.com/pa/elk/montmorenci.cfm

    I like your poems that have Montmorenci Falls in it.

    They’re like a puzzle.

    Like in “Rabbit Run”. I figured out that since John Updike came from Shillington, PA, I was able to find out on a road map that it’s right outside of Reading, which made me realize that the fictional Brewer in the novel was actually Reading, and that the town that Rabbit was supposedly from in the book, Mount Judge, was actually Mount Penn. Right outside of Reading, as well.

    I was able to find a Montmorency Falls near Quebec.

    But Montmorenci is apparently a section of Ridgway, PA.

    There’s also a part of PA 948 known as Montmorenci Avenue.

    It’s all near Route 666, which sounds creepy.

    In Elk County.

    I like the basic theme of the poem, which resembles the theme in this song by Johnny Cash from 1958 ——

    Glen

    • Glen Russell Slater
    • Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:51 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Also, I found this line to be cool —–

    “But breathtakingly so, the kind of radiance

    Which held up to the forty-foot screen of the drive-in in St. Mary’s.”

    Glen

  1. In a way, there’s nothing worse than potential. Even if you come close to “making it,” the folks back home will always remind you that they remember the time when you wet your pants in the 3rd grade, or fell off a snowy roof back in ’79. Putting you back in your place is the timeless work of the dull, fearful and unimaginative.
    Nice piece,
    Bill

    • I fell off the snowy roof of a dorm, but I think that was in ’82.

  2. Really like this piece – the pace, detail, the melancholy with clarity ~

  3. I love this poem, probably because I understand it…It’s the stuff of Masters, especially in the imagery of the mill and the grill ( I mean girl). I’d like to read a poem of one of the heartbroken guys who did take her to the senior prom and who married his second choice when she left.
    As for SoCal, those beaches are appealing.

    • Well, if you poke back through your Spoon River Anthology, you’ll find the epitaph for Aner Clute; while our respective Ms. Clutes are significantly different people, Mr. Masters’ professional woman is partly the basis for my heroine.

  4. Oh, yes. Aner Clute. Sorry I missed that but the memory ain’t what it used to be…

  5. I’m not very good at this commenting business, so I’ll just say this is an excellent poem and I love it.

  6. There’s hopefully always at least one among us who doesn’t make it; who stands atop those falls and declares suicide, announces it all as shit, but does it freer and more joyfully than anyone around him and at the bottom when he appears not to be too broken, everyone else follows. He was just kidding.


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