The Hometown

The town has always felt
darker and meaner to me
than any city ever has.

Although I loved its woods and 
how many of its dirt roads remained
unpaved well into my twenties,

it still felt too often like an evil
had slipped out of the settler past
and come to rest on the hilltops,

in the quarries, along its rivers
still slimy with the residue
of woolen dyes drained

from its long gone mills. An antique
dimness to the sunrise, a blood tone
to the sunset, a prehistoric

scent in the dark. We all knew
there’d been murders, rapes, 
and more; every town has its share

of course, but somehow we nodded
ours away as almost quaint.  
We’d heard the Klan had met

in the Town Hall once, or maybe more;
people didn’t like to speak of it,
New England being as self-deluding then

as it still is. Somewhere among the rocks
on the northern edge was a spot
where English killed Native,

or Native killed English; stories differed 
but it’s clear: those deaths remained 
in our definition; the land still howls it; 

forever it has keened beneath 
the politesse, the etiquette, the reticence
of old timers. When I drive here now

on infrequent visits, I see it in 
flags and bumper stickers, I hear it
in casual slander in diners, I taste it

in the perfect water drawn up from wells
that everyone praises, that were sunk through
rocks like those still faintly stained with blood

up on the northern edge of town. I lived here once,
I tell myself on the way back out of town.
I don’t have to live here still, but somehow

I still do. I can only forget 
when I’m back in the city,
far from the dead

no one will speak of,
and all the sounds
of their disquieting ghosts:

But we love it here, it’s so pretty,
they say.  We love it here,
who would ever want to leave?

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

2 responses to “The Hometown

  • Eileen

    I lived in large cities until my mid-thirties. The culture shock of a small rural southern town was profound. Both positive and negative. The trouble with a small town is you know everybody in their skin and most people aren’t that acceptable naked. The good thing about a small town is you know everybody in their skin and you know whom to avoid.

    • Tony Brown

      Oh, yeah…I’m not far from where I grew up; my folks still live there. I spend as little time there as possible.

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