Our Town Is Not Dying

They say that it’s dying, our little town’s dying,
with pity and grief in their eyes.

Our town is not dying, you can’t say it’s dying
till every last one of us dies.

They show us the pictures, old black-and-white pictures
of market-day crowds along Main,

the hoodlums and Quakers and movers and shakers
of whom a few relics remain.

There’s horseshoes and races and picnicking places
where now is an unbroken lawn,

a hackberry tree where there now is no tree,
and the grocery store that is gone.

They show us those families, big hearty families
filling the street for the fair,

then point to the street spreading out from our feet
with nobody, nobody there.

And where are the children? they say, You need children.
They sadly regard our demise.

They point to the buildings, the sad empty buildings
with windows reflecting the skies.

They look at the schools, the old three-story schools
made of wrought iron, concrete and brick.

They look at the courthouse, the old county courthouse
with quarried walls seven feet thick.

They show you the churches, the high-steepled churches
that Rapture alone could pull down.

The pioneers built them. The giants who built them
built every damn thing in this town.

If there were still giants, those farsighted giants
would tuck-point those bricks in the wall,

intending forever these buildings should never
be idly permitted to fall.

They’d say, In the future, the far-distant future,
won’t people still gather to pray?

Won’t somebody govern? And where will they govern?
And where will they study and play?

The quilters still meet in the school up the street,
And one of the stubborn ones said,

They can’t say it’s dying, they can’t say it’s dying
till every one of us is dead.


About Greg Bryant

I teach writing and literature at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas.
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One Response to Our Town Is Not Dying

  1. bryon says:

    I love that rhythm! It drives a reader, like a locomotive that’s built up steam, from one stanza to the next as if to prove there is still life in the old place. Two especially wonderful lines: “quarried walls seven feet thick” and “that Rapture alone could pull down” (actually, I love the whole stanza that’s part of).

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