Our small town empties on Memorial Day
after the shine of parades
chugging with Harleys and sousaphones
tuned to the last days of a school year
already long over. The legion lot
full and the bar deep in the glossy
sentiment for fallen friends.
It’s no place, here, for doubt.
Love of home is as certain
as polished chrome--
only in the back yards still clutched
in early spider webs does anyone
talk of the uncle, the violent drunk,
the DUIs, the restraining order,
how Eric hasn’t seen his daughter
in nine years, how Ron’s goats
chew a lawn he can’t mow
because the pitch of the engine
is the whine he heard
just before the fireball took--
well, that’s what we don’t know.
We want to talk and make up
the missing parts, because it’s easy
to say things we think can fill a loss.
The towns empty, the lake fills
with boats, mortgaged islands
floating with beer far from the sight
of land, water the opposite
of sand, clear skies the opposite
of ghosts, bullshit the opposite of memory,
canopy shade the opposite of sunlight
and even of the long shadows advancing
on the water as the drunken dusk
catches everyone suddenly, unaware.
About the Author: Gabriel Welsch is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent being The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse (Steel Toe Books, 2013). His fiction and poetry has appeared in journals including Georgia Review, Southern Review, Harvard Review, Missouri Review, and on Verse Daily and in Ted Kooser’s column “American Life in Poetry.” Recent work appears in decomP, Trampset, Cleaver, Thrush, Rumble Fish Quarterly, Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, and Moon City Review. He lives in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, with his family, works as vice president of advancement and marketing at Juniata College, and teaches occasionally at the Chautauqua Writer’s Center.