Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kansas Ghost Towns


“tense, musty,
unignorable silence”
—Philip Larkin,

Olpe, Allen, Americus—
There’s nothing going on
In these towns anymore

More ghost towns—
Bite the dust, all that’s
Left is some fading memories

Even that doesn’t last long—
Then maybe a collection of
Old photos and snapshots

Memorabilia of a gone—
Midwestern Era that some
Of us may still remember

Now it’s happening—
To Emporia, Kansas that
Lovely Athens of the Midwest

Once it had two colleges—
Now it barely has one with
Degrees worth shit anymore

So what if you’ve got a—
Business Degree or even an
Esteemed Harvard MBA?

This New Great Depression—
Without any FDR Savior is
On the Event Horizon of Hell

Lots of Downtown Emporia—
Boarded-up and bankrupt
WalMart & Flint Hill Mall rules

There’s always the adorable—
Hostess Twinkies though to
Lift one’s dour stoic spirits


“someone would
know: I don’t”
—Philip Larkin,

Midwestern minions—
On the move looking for

Flocking to the sacred
Red Rocks Temple there
On shady Exchange St

Tea and crumpets—
Maybe even a nice petite
Soul-searching Reading

Recounting the Life—
Of pretty tres precocious
Mary White of Emporia

The attic is haunted—
Supposedly by the ghost of
The great GAZETTE Editor

Mounting the Lectern—
Clearing his throat and
Then hectoring the Mob

Bombastic Editorials—
Worthy of Teddy Roosevelt
Calvin Coolidge & the rest

I sign the book and—
Donate ten bucks toward
The Future of Emporia


“the place was not
worth stopping for”
—Philip Larkin,

And yet stop I did—
In fact I often do, ending
Up usually this same way

Wondering what I’m seeing—
What there is to look at this
Falling completely out of use

What shall they turn it into—
Keeping the town chronically
For a local quaint showpiece?

Letting the town rot & decay—
Avoiding it like some unlucky
Place haunted by old ghosts?

Obituaries full of dead people—
Roberts-Blue beloved ones
Buried out there at Maplewood?

Superstition like belief—
Outmoded and dying like some
Riddle that was never solved?

Smooth flat mowable cemetery—
Tombstones but what remains
When even disbelief has gone?

Weeds, gravelly path, old tombs—
Their purpose more obscure as
The years creep by like snails?


“Bored, uninformed,
knowing the ghostly silt”
—Philip Larkin,

Here I am retired—
In a lovely apartment
In the new Kenyon Heights

The swanky remodeled—
C of E Administration Bldg
For aging Emporia retirees

I was born across the street—
At Newman’s on West Twelfth
Via Roberta Eckdall’s grandfather

As Richard Doxtator said—
We’re all dying at different rates
Such an astute EHS philosopher

Yes, I’m rotting ever so slowly—
The view from my west windows
Overlooks Maplewood Cemetery

I’m sort of like C of E it seems—
My purpose gets more & more
Obscure like the Carnegie Library


“It pleases me to
stand in silence here”
—Philip Larkin,

Reeble’s Monument Business—
Must have made a mint over the
Years with all the funeral homes

Grinding away at all the granite—
Tombstones to enshrine fading
Memories of the Dearly Beloved

Margaret Reeble butch bull dyke—
Stomping in & out of Reeble’s South
Glaring at schmaltzy bagboy me

I was deadly afraid of her—
And so was everybody else there
In that ancient Grocery Store Tomb

Ship’s Lounge across the street—
My tall lanky skuzzy stepfather who
Had more than a few tall cool ones

His rundown Mechanics Shop there—
Across the street on Commercial with
His dirty greasy awful finger nails


“A serious house on
serious earth in whose bent
air all my compulsions lie”
—Philip Larkin,

Down by the tracks in a little town—
Plopped down like a cow-turd there
Along the sad lonely Santa Fe tracks

What more can I say that the—
Diva Bette Davis hasn’t already said
Like I fastened my seatbelts, honey

Small towns fuck you up—
The same with your mom and dad
They may not mean to, but they do

You end up with their faults—
And add some extra bad karma just
To torment you & keep you busy

Small towns are fucked up—
They get even more drunken-mean
With naïve chicken like you and me

A serious little fucking town—
Serious stoic Red State Republican
With its plans mapped out for you


“Man hands on misery to man.
Get out as early as you can”
—Philip Larkin,

Heteronormativity deepens—
Like mud and sludge down the
Mississippi River to the Gulf

Past the bad boy Big Easy—
But in Emporia it’s with the
Flooded Neosho & Cottonwood

It’s lucky I didn’t come out—
Back then in the Reagan Era
When Just Say No was Password

Then came Clinton’s mantra—
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but that
Didn’t do any fucking good at all

Need I go on, my dears, with—
The usual deadly Plague Roll Call
Did ACT-UP really do any good

And then there was the lovely—
SF Gay Baghdad by the Bay with
Milk and Moscone slaughtered dead

The tender Tentacles of Death—
Even reached down to innocent
Wizard of Oz Kansas in Emporia

My favorite gay flamboyant—
Flaming Cheerleader a la pom-poms
Jimmy Stevens suddenly died

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