They have waited all their lives
for train tracks to lace them to other towns,
and now the word comes down. The Soo Line will
build tracks and a depot, but two miles away.
The Soo Line will pay to move their houses.
They clash like caroms colliding,
some of them long to shoot two miles away,
some of them want to be buried where they are.
For twenty years they have forgiven
one another’s lateness, stunning
bad smells, cluttered houses.
They had seen what their odds were
when they first staggered
to Lake Adley through a snow storm
so violent it seemed alive.
They pulled their houses
close as wagons around this wide dirt street,
pitched each roof, the gables,
chimneys, all of it made up
from fear and desperate hope.
And now it’s summer, 1903.
Children are eating wild choke cherries
and playing in the skirts of wild grasses.
Across the prairie, the lucky ring of hammers
on railroad spikes. Already the men have put up
an A where the depot roof will be. It stands out
against the sky, a letter at the beginning,
a letter they’ve voted to love.
Yesterday they invented the name, Old Town,
for the place where they used to suffer,
and now all the meadow-larks-of-the-blood
are singing while the people watch their houses,
the First Baptist Church, the Manhattan Hotel on wagons,
rolling across the prairie toward their future.