SHADOWBOXING

The old Alberton jail

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-

turned-bookstore quietly

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.

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