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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 ignorant 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.