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Sample Poems by Ann Kolakowski

At the Wheelwright’s Shop
The Ghost of Charles Keys
My job was one of arcs and angles, anxious
folks preparing for a journey (theirs
or someone else’s).
                                    Wagon wheels demand
precision, while the dead absolve a coffin’s
hasty corner. Hacksaw, rasp, and clamp:
the tools I used all looked the same, no matter
what the goal. What differed was the lumber:
seasoned oak for spokes and fellies, yellow
pine for what was due to moulder also.
When Influenza struck, I watched the wheelwright
work ahead by sizing up the dying
with the folding rule inside his mind.
So many sleepless nights, he stayed up making
boxes, large and small. No time to carve
a flourish or initials, just the space
to wonder what it would be like to lie
within his own. I could have told him: every
dawn arrives escorted by a murder
of crows; each Caw resets the final nail.

William Craumer
Although it’s true my fingers did not need
a chaperone to oversee their dodge-
and-weave, I had two eyes that always worked.
But pity makes a story strong, I guess;
for years I was remembered as the blind
broom maker, words that trailed me like a homeless
pup. Then my great-grandson found a photo
showing me behind the reins, a whip
within my easy reach, Alethia
a child yet, safe beside me. My gaze fixed.
I don’t blame them for twisting me to fit
their need. I twisted life as well. This broomcorn
isn’t corn at all but sorghum sentenced
to a life of sweeping ash and dirt
because it looks the part.
                                         What does it really
matter? Anything that’s used too much
will harden to its task: a broom, a pair
of hands or eyes. Just what was left to see?

The town came down in pieces, one by one.
The bridge loomed overhead, all truss and grill,
and when the water rose Warren was gone.
They took apart the houses, stone by stone,
while final threads spun through the cotton mill.
The town came down in pieces. One by one,
old neighbors said good-byes and left their homes.
The graves were emptied, too—was this God’s will?
And, when the water rose, Warren was gone.
The mill hands cleared the trees; soon there were none.
With dynamite and saws, they worked until
the town was all in pieces. One by one,
the letters stopped: the postman’s work was done.
They left the flagpole, impotent and still,
and when the water rose Warren was gone.
The junkman saved the bell that rang each dawn;  
its toll yet echoes somewhere, faint and chill.
The town came down in pieces, one by one,
and then the water rose. Warren was gone.

Silent Witness
Summerfield Baldwin

For sentiment, I’ll never say
I told the men to leave the flagpole.
It stood for years, a vain display
for sentiment. I’ll never say
what made me halt their saws that day—
but it was spite. There was no role
for sentiment. I’ll never say
I told the men to leave the flagpole.


Marian Brown Eichler
It happened
a little at a time:
the story took on contours
as water erased
the town.
One day, all
that was left was what
we christened truth: the water
was ankle deep when
left Warren.
Dynamite rubble rained
on the schoolhouse with students
inside. The spring had magic
For sixty
years John teased that he found
me in Loch Raven, clinging
to the wooden pole.
sixty years
I believed it, the way
an old-time hymn must be true
when you sing it with your
whole heart.

On Warren Road Bridge

There is no sign where Warren stood. The bridge
just hums its iron song when cars cross on
the steel grid deck as if to say, I know
a secret. Above the reservoir, descendent
ferns still flank the intact stairs at Hillside
Farm—the house is gone—and lilies tilt
their trumpets, straining for the playground laughter,
hymns of joy and mourning, orders shouted
louder than the thunder of the looms.
The hum descends through forty feet of silt,
until it frees the tale that’s buried. Catfish
gulp it down and teach it to their offspring:
There was a town here once, and then there wasn’t.
Words dissolve in ripples at the surface,
abandoning the story at the shoreline.
The cars continue on their way—the drivers
never guessing they should slow—as somewhere
on the rigid span the road gives up
its name, then disappears into the woods.