Photo of Susan Carlson's collage art piece "Gone to the Birds"

Photo of Susan Carlson’s collage art piece “Gone to the Birds”

cemeteries and ghost towns

abandoned buildings

the dilapidated evidence

of lives lived and gone


broken glass and missing doors

some swollen and jammed

to the floor

the rank smells

of mildew and stink pigs blend

like ant hills littered

with larch needles and rat shit

mounding along the baseboards


below the gaping chimney flue

a yellowed-stiff pile

of catalogs and magazines

have welded

over time


the outline of a cabinet

torn-down scars one wall

another is scrawled with F-U-C-K

in all caps

and illustrated

with a scratch-drawn cock and balls


one tube sock lies on the floor

of a dim bedroom

the windows boarded-up

a single cot-spring

rusted to a metal foot-board

the wood-grain face

pierced by three bullet holes

and hung in the wall by one leg

punched through beaver board


out back the old wood shed

stands dramatically close

a frayed rope still hanging

from a rafter inside

and a broken claw hammer

lies half-buried in weeds

beside the railroad tie stoop


the outhouse a one-holer

has lost its roof and reek

the Hills Brothers coffee can

holds no spare roll

no one shits here anymore


one story has it

the young woman drown

bathing in the Clark Fork River

pregnant with her third

it didn’t take her husband

a full year to follow her

off the Rock Creek Road

everyone knew he’d drown

in a bottle

the girls were farmed out to

next-of-kin in the Midwest

taken in like little birds


from the nest


but who knows

these headstones

are almost a hundred years old


so it must be

a fairly safe bet

the daughters are gone now too


—inspired by Susan Carlson’s “Gone to the Birds”



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