Identifying with Licking County

Identifying with Licking County

by James Siegel

County of a hundred ghost towns
and counting.      I understand
the woman walking there.

Her headstone sinks behind the hills
and still she paces rotted floors,
moves through walls
where once there were doors.
And she’ll keep walking
after the foundations fall
and the roof crumbles
because her memory has
nowhere else to go.

You cannot stop
what kept repeating.     It is why
the Buckeye Scenic Railroad is nothing
but dead grass in the shape of tracks
and yet the train whistle
scatters starlings on the sky.

We cannot expect the past
to just stop speaking
or the Hanover firehouse to forget
the horses’ heavy hooves
that knocked the stable walls. Listen
for one last muffled bray
trapped for decades in the air.

There will always be enough loss

to fill the silent spaces left behind.

It’s the only explanation

for the shadow sliding past the banister,
the porch door banging shut,
the lighter hissing sparks,
and your brand of cigarette
slipping through the screened windows.

James Siegel lives in San Francisco, but is originally from Ohio. He is the director for GuyWriters, a San Francisco-based organization that was developed to celebrate the literary work of gay men in the San Francisco Bay Area. GuyWriters also holds quarterly events where prominent guest readers and up-and-coming artists share their work. His poems have appeared in the anthology Diving Divas: 100 Gay Men on Their Muses, as well as the literary journals The Fourth River, Toledo Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Blueline, Paper Street, and The Broken Plate.

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