DISAPPEARING TOWN


by J. Scott Brownlee

Empty the summer of its sweat.
Empty the river of its silt
where Troy once jumped down
from the dam, making a strange stunt-
show of it.† I will bet you a dollar
and a quarter I won't break my leg,

he said, when I jump off of it.

Empty the casket of the other boy
who drowned and his mother's Bible
where she wrote her son's name
in the margins a thousand times.
Empty the parable where Jesus walks
on water in a storm and replace it
with Jesus drowns. Everyone drowns.

Empty the disappearing town
that is invisible to me, the one
I often thought was too much to return to
with its George Bush and its Baptists
and its single-mindedness.
There is only one way,
its preachers say.† But then,
what do they know?

Empty the mineral deposits,
Llanite rocks and coal-black clay.
Empty the silver mine, its prospectors,
the dust of wealth still clinging to their fingers.
Empty it.† Empty the highways of their trucks
and midnight switchback Saturdays,
their dizzy drunks and Sunday drivers
who have come to see the flowers.†

Empty the fields so full of bluebonnets
it hurts.† Empty the churches
of their many congregations,
pews and prayers.† Empty the cup
full of grape juice, because it won't
turn into wine.† There are no miracles
ónot here.† Empty the podium
my friend stood on and preached from
in the Pentecostal church,

his grief flowing like water from his mouth,
from his blue-tendrilled tongue
at his friendís funeral where he spoke
of the vanishing faith that he felt
as he watched the boy drown: †
I could not save him from the undertow,
despite the fact that I tried.††
The floodgates were open.