My dad has this Budweiser piggy bank
shaped like a bottle, filled with loose change
and lint and a couple a’ twenties
snuck from the cookie jar
where Momma hides her church money.
It’s for the Grand Canyon. He told me once,
we’re leaving Monarch Rubber and that pastor
with the wonkey eye and all those trains
that howl, like wolves, to the moon
And baby girl, he said,
we’ll race the trains and kick up dust
and those damn locomotives will smolder
under our burnt rubber –
they’ll never know what hit ‘em.
But I have been choking on his words for years.
The sound of metal wheels
clicking down the railways
reminds me of the home.
The horn blaring so loudly
the ground trembles in its wake
and my bedroom walls rock in its rhythm.
Trains have lulled me to sleep for years,
the tracks like stitches hatched across this town
if you tug at them long enough
our whole world might unravel,
and all the corn fields and fracking wells
and liquor stores will dissolve between our fingers,
the neighborhood lemonade stands will forget the taste of our lips,
the community pool unremembering how to float our bodies –
Listen, for years I’ve kept hidden
between the folds of our county map,
tucked within the crease that runs through this town,
pouring gasoline along the sidewalks
filling the streets with smoke
would be like toppling all the headstones in Belmont Cemetery.
We could pretend the town’s conscience was cleared
but the bodies would still be there.
This town is a graveyard.
Our brick buildings, the intersection of Columbus
and Route 44 are my ancestors,
the ghost of the person I used to be.
When the day came
for Dad to spend our Grand Canyon money
on drugs, I understood, I even
smoked them with him. Let expressways,
and the cities we’d only ever seen in pictures
fade away, probably hauled off by the trains,
maybe even the same ones
that brought Dad back
I think we knew we could never beat the trains,
but we couldn’t keep listening to them
either. We breathed in fantasies of escape
the same way this town lived off the smoke
that billowed from factories, pumping out
tires, vacuums, engines until they shut down.
The abandoned factories lay scattered like
this town’s rotting flesh.
Holding onto this disease would be like plucking
the ruby leaves from the rotting branches of an antique oak,
unburying our old German Shepherd
from the backyard. My step-father accidently built
a shed over the grave, so I guess
we’ll have to tear that down, too.
I have so many roots tangled in this town,
the soil is starting to build in my ears.
Sometimes, when I’m sitting in the wooden pews
with Momma, I play with the dots of lint
stuck to my dress, pretending to pick little pieces
of this town away. There is this piggy bank
hidden under my bed, filled with loose change
that whisper about grand canyons all around
the world, and cities I’ve only seen in pictures.
But when I learn to live in maps
that I cannot trace with my eyes closed,
I’m sure they will whisper about
the trains and brick buildings and smoke
I have known for years.
And I think
I will finally be ready
to swallow it.