A broken-boarded, loose-nailed
should-be-buried farm shed, still bearing a weak
coat of barn-red paint. It was in the trees,
just south of town, south of the pile of
gravel and sand stored by the highway department.
We called it the Slaughterhouse,
‘though I doubt things were ever butchered there:
just a name drummed up by kids looking for
something of semi-fascination and backstory,
something beyond the small-town everyday.
Barely teens, the old place in the grip of —
pick a “d” word: decay, deterioration, disrepair —
was where we spent our days for a few summers,
with pilfered cans of beer, hot dogs we’d cook
over a garbage barrel, where top-forty songs
boomed out of a portable radio.
Desolate, but ours.
It’s where I slow-danced with the St. Paul girl,
kissed her when no one was looking,
then, before we biked back to town,
kissed her again — this time, everyone looking.
Yeah, you did that then.
You tried life out.
Others, mingling their toes in the river’s bend,
smoking their first cigarettes,
swearing out loud because there was no soap,
carving their names into the rotting wood of the floor.
It’s gone now, of course. Bulldozed years ago
to clear field space so someone could
plant crop as close as he could to the river.
A map’s worth of old buildings we used to
bike to in summers has been wiped
out of being — country stores where you’d get
a bottle of grape pop for a dime;
Stevie’s grandmother’s two-story farmhouse,
burned and buried, along with the grove,
by the investors who bought all 480 acres.
New uses for old places.
But are there new uses for the old people?
Or even the young?
One night, a country drive. I watch a controlled burn
in a black field west of town: ridding the land of weeds
and stalks. They'd burn rock if there was a way.
I remember the shed and the St. Paul girl.
I remember the wetness of her lips,
the way she wrapped her arms around my back,
holding us in place.
There may have been a dragonfly.
There may have been a song on the radio.
Through one of the broken windows,
I could hear the river.
It made the sound of forever.
And she held us in place.
Dana Yost is the author of two published books, 2008's Grace, a collection of new poems; and 2010's The Right Place, a collection of essays and poems. His third book, A Higher Level: Life's Large Lessons From a Small College on the Prairie, a regional history book, will come out this fall from Ellis Press. He was an award-winning daily newspaper editor for 29 years at papers in the Upper Midwest. His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and magazines, including Stymie Magazine, Awakenings Review, Open Minds Quarterly, Relief, Turtle Quarterly, Red Booth Review, Bare Root Review, the Crusader, South Dakota Magazine, Time of Singing, and Wolf Head Quarterly. He lives in Forest City, Iowa.