is always open, its iron door
squeaking on rusted hinges.
Inside it the sod roof
and back wall bury the cell
now piled with empty beer cans.
The condemned mercantile,
Chet’s Bar, and the old meat-market-
crumble, not far behind.
In the boomtowns out west
nothing was built to last.
And after the railroad died
or was put out of its misery,
the town lost its youth,
lost its way, and stumbled along
like the old drunk who crawled
into the trunk of that junkyard car
one cold winter night
(after the bars closed)
and froze to the Texaco sign.
Alberton is wasting away
like that dilapidated jailhouse
returning to the mountain, dissolving
to dirt and moving into memory,
into story, into ghosts and grass.
Shadows keep changing like water
eddying inside me, like daylight
rising golden before sunbeams
kissed the town-facing slope
across theClark ForkRiver
summers when I was a kid—
my hillside stage glowing, light
growing in intensity,
a curtain of joy lifting
triumphant as music or birth
or death—an understanding
of what things have real worth—
and the dirty truth of it all:
we are today, duff, and decay,
locked in and looking at the sky.