In a small town, people are
who they are, no getting away
from what the eighth-grade teacher thinks,
the ex-wife, the hardware guy.
And when the sun at 3 o’clock
passing through the civic prism
dyes the flaking stucco wall
of Magruder’s Service Station, the side
by the vacant lot where sharp things rust,
that is where the spirits mingle,
the ones you know or who know you.
And if on foot you stop to gawk
why, there you are among the shades.
Still the wall can’t tell you what you feel
about who you are or wish to be—
the life you’ve led, the love you’ve won.
And who knows what Magruder feels,
who sometimes pays to have it painted,
and has himself a wild tattoo
on his upper arm, his wife Leona’s
name in flames, for what that’s worth?

Don Barkin has published poems in Poetry, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Commonweal, Prairie Schooner, and other magazines. He is the author of three full-length books of poems, That Dark Lake (2009), Houses (2017), and The Rail Stop at Wassaic (2020).

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Published in the December 2, 2016 issue: View Contents
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