A Scene in Any Small Town

I’ve passed my time near to the heart of you.
I’ve walked past boarded windows and closed shops.
On a winter day, I dipped my fingers in your fountain
To feel the sting of frozen waters bright and cold.

I have gone to the river, to stand on the dock and watch
The boats passing in the fog trailing their fishing lines,
I’ve watched the last leaves carried away on the wind.

I once came here with a bottle of beer in my bag to be alone for a while.
The way the river is alone. The way this little town is alone.
The way all the ghosts of what once was are now alone.

All small towns are old. And the heart of them is old.
And the pace of their walk is always a little slower.
Their buildings get more wrinkles with every board on a window
Their shoulders hunch lower with every neon Space For Lease sign.

Who will sing for the closed storefronts? For the opera house
That hasn’t heard a song in years save that of Friday evening’s
Drunkards stumbling and bellowing to the night?

Who will say of the red brick buildings that there was once life here?
That small towns have seen time come and go. Birth and death and redemption.
That they have been witness to both good and evil,
To people and all their excesses.

Dust gathers on the rooftops, and it will all be dust one day.
When the last window is covered over in boards,
When everyone has moved away for more, bigger, better,
Will we have gained anything?

Only sentimental fools worry for what has passed
Or been surpassed or finds itself in obsolescence,
But towns speak with the voice of years
In a language we have all left behind.
There’s no such thing as immortality on earth.

I have passed my time near to the heart of you,
And I have heard your voice, but
I don’t know the words.

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