Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cold Fires

towns like little self-contained wastelands
surrounded by vast geologies, volcanic plains
and fog-bound snowfields

cold fires, no one left at home
fences and barns crumbled from neglect
the world's ending passed through
spat, and marched on to kill the next hearths

now no one lives here, or can
those able left long ago
following the work
as the plows broke themselves
on this fertile, rocky, mafic, pitiless earth

snows pile up inside unglazed windows
a broken cradle, a threadbare one-eyed doll
and the rags of a grey shawl
batter themselves apart in the wind's harp

till even the horses are bare bones
skulls and antlers nailed over gateposts
over range roads that fade into the desert
in last warning

And that's what I was thinking, as I drove through several of these little Idaho towns along Hwy. 20/26, looking cold and abandoned, in bleak afternoon light: I could never live here. Why would anyone want to live in such places anymore? I mean, I love small towns, and I love living in rural areas; but these looked so dead and forlorn, so alienated from the rest of creation, that they sickened the spirit. I even stopped for gas at one small town, and there was no one at the station; it was all automated, the "Open" neon sign was lit in the building window, but there hadn't been anyone there for ages, the other windows were all painted over and everything was locked up. Is this the way the world ends, in cold, and snow, and silence? If so, Fimbulwinter has come to rural Idaho. And so I drove on, and on, till I reached easternmost Oregon, and the feeling that the people here are still alive.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Without your explanatory paragraph I read this as some kind of post-apocalyptic setting but I suppose it’s not that far from it. Who said the apocalypse had to happen overnight anyway?

5:18 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

The whole drive had a very apocalyptic feel, and each of those small towns did indeed seem very post-end-0f-the-world at the time.

I've believed for some years now that there isn't any one big apocalypse, that there are only an endless procession of small, personal ones. And you're right, the apocalypse can be very slow, it doesn't have to be in an instant. Sometimes it takes people a long time to even notice it.

10:19 AM  
Blogger David-Glen Smith said...

Like the connections bewtween cradles and plows-- carries a nice relationship.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks. Cradle to work to grave, plowed under the soil. Maybe that's an obvious analogy, but it seemed to fit, here.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Gordon Mason said...

Powerful stuff, Art. Liked the images particularly "world's ending passed through
spat, and marched on to kill the next hearths"

All over the world there are places like this. Brings to my mind the Highland Clearances in Scotland.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, Gordon. Thanks very much.

I agree, there are places like this all over. Pretty much a marker of hard economic times, no matter where.

11:14 PM  

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