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Posted (edited)

for some a purgatory

filled past eternity with

infinite shades

in the sea of greens

that surrounds

the thread of sun-bleached rain-washed asphalt

that twists and swoops

around hills speckled

with salt-and-pepper cattle

and yellow-gold flecks of tied-up hay

pulled and braided like shorn hair


and the single store

across a red-clay-streaked street

yellow lines so faded that we run on assumption

the dog barks

and chases every car

that pulls in across from her

once-white house

wooden siding gray as the pavement

where the paint has chipped and peeled

her name is lily


she defends the singular store

with cigarettes behind the counter

and pencils beside

a child’s paradise in the form of a wall

covered in crayola-colored candies


the woman inside

is older than anyone can remember

and her hair is whiter

than the house across the street

her son is there too

his name is mike

when i was smaller

he’d pick me up

so i could reach the dollar ice cream

inside the icebox

and once he tolerated me

when i climbed on the counter

to braid his hair


and two men sit in chairs by the door

they have always been there too

in the half-light

through the paper-plastered front window

and they drink coffee

careful not to spill on camouflage jackets

and well-worn leather boots

red from the clay they’ve stood in

they talk about the before

and compare it to the now


and they talk about

how the now can be better

how nice it is that their daughter

can be in the military now

and how the solar panels

on their hot tin roof

help so much

and they talk about stamps

and their guns in the back of their trucks

and hunting the bear that’s been killing their

salt-and-pepper cows


they say that the past is nice too

before cookie-cutter houses sprung up

and chain restaurants forged their way in

before a night-black road came in beside

and the days when a president’s skin

was not orange or black

before when anyone could come in

regardless of their skin

and then we could hate them

for whatever else they’d got

and patriotism didn’t mean



so we sit in the shadows

of purple-blue mountains

and watch

as the wind blows through the trees

that line the roads

that may turn to gravel


and we watch

picket-fence perspective lines

fade into the humidity

the cardinals and sparrows fly

and sit on the graves of

names faded with indifference

some kept in the best shape

are of a different shape than the rest


and the next church

offers hope too,

regardless of who you voted for

when you last stood inside


but eternity isn’t so bad

and purgatory is my backyard




Author's Note:

okay so @thepensword directly inspired me with "American Purgatory" (go read it, it's gorgeous) to actually follow through on the effort I've been making to describe the small town in the American Southeast that I live in. I want to make clear that I am NOT mad at you/offended, Jess, I just wanted to show my corner of where she's seeing from someone who's lived here for a while. 

Second note: the lines in this poem "some kept in the best shape/ are a different shape than the rest" refers to how the graves of confederate soldiers are a specific shape. And we've got some of those around here. Most people can recognize the shape. That said, not a single person nearby me has a confederate flag displayed at their house. 

Edited by queenie_flower
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