This is a poem that has been revised three times that I wrote on a drive from Columbus to Ogallala early this semester. All of the place conscious reading we did in my class caused me to think about the fate of small towns; this poem is a reflection of that.
Driving home along Highway 30
As I drive down Highway 30, through Silver Creek
I see the meat locker my Uncle Richard once owned.
The Silver Creek Locker sits along the edge of the highway
with butcher paper covering the windows
that have been damaged, I assume, from rocks
thrown by bored teenagers.
This run down, dirty-white building
used to be a major business in this town of 399.
I remember walking in the door, the smell of salt
tingling my nose, my hands shoved deep into
the pockets of my hand-me-down Levi’s
in an effort to keep them warm.
My Uncle Richard, in his blood spattered apron,
would emerge from the back—
a place I would never venture
because my wild imagination already gave me a
vivid picture of what laid behind those swinging doors.
My younger brother and I would suck on Lollies
while dad and Uncle Richard talked about fishing
and mom and Aunt Betty discussed all the latest gossip.
Aunt Betty was a hard working Polish immigrant
who still had a bit of an accent from the old country—
and it fascinated me.
As I drug my teeth in the sweet-tart sucker
I listened to her speak,
imagining what her life was like when she was my age.
Today as I drive through this tired, old town
I notice that many businesses look like the Silver Creek Locker and
I begin to grow a little sad—
sad that what my uncle worked so hard for is now gone,
sad that this seems to be the fate of so many small communities.
And as I sip on my Grande Americano from Starbucks
I regret that I did not stop at one of the mom and pop
shops that line Highway 30.