Tucked in down the road by the railroad, past cozy log-burning
Five-room bungalos with everlasting Christmas decorations and
Cats skirting yards to the warmth of kitchen doors, Within
Mountains draped in leafy silk; pounded copper and gold leaf.
The contours of the fabric, black and timeless,
a shroud that conceals some great living thing.
“Facility to Shut its Doors”
News of Death in mid-air
the thump of falling.
Lay offs. Budget Cuts.
The hardness of the pasture absorbs my weight
like an injured bird, disbelieving its fate.
The green mountains undulate with copper and green and stone,
history’s immortal audience breathes deeply through her ancient pines
Dumpster door bangs
The intercom drones, calling students to report for transport.
“But he hasn’t finished his final draft….”
The calve’s pen resembles a children’s graveyard
Empty and sequestered-
around which Kubotas mow in tidy circles- all they know to do
in these last hours.
Their riders, brows furrowed, bodies leaning, still intent not to miss a shard.
A hawk on a kite string twirls
And balances in the cloudy September whirlpool
The lesson plan, Friday’s quiz…
Poetry anxiously thrust toward me for approval.
“Are you sad?” they ask. “What will you do?”
They are resilient by necessity, this student body.
Beyond the forest wall the river roars over crayfish rocks.
The forest breathes depths of sleepy, humid pine and
Night will settle on this place.
The crows will nestle in the oaks.
Waxy box turtles,
Nervous pregnant skunks,
Investigative coons on hind legs
ghostly marble-eyed possum,
and Goliath beetles…
creep through wet bark and dark holes,
sometimes cuffed by speeding cars . Crickets scream.
We avert our eyes.
“Send all student files down to office.”
Student work is ripped from walls.
Orange jumpsuits fill state vans like crated nectarines.
Inmates face sullenly forward
They avert our eyes.
Have already disconnected,
trying to remember the ways to avoid being assaulted
in the showers:
the importance of unspoken codes and feigned nonchalance-
the consequence of fear.
“Experienced Drivers Needed” the trailer reads.
It is white as if just plucked from a factory,
A scrubbed egg
in stark contrast to our grey-beige motif.
Garishly presented as a Trojan horse,
it waits to invade the last vestiges of these classrooms
and park them in a lonely lot
to be serenaded by a whining highway,
rocking winter winds
spring hail on the metal roof.
I’m in that truck; the book inside the card board box marked, “Text Books,”
compressed in the dark, pages once touched; pages touching others.
Maybe never again. At least not this way.
Dried leaves flutter and spin
Great shadows cross the mountains
Crows converge on treetops
Prisoners relax and stretch on squeaky cots.
Night comes rapidly now with its own space.
The rows of well-used dorms and classrooms
Swept empty-best as was possible-
Revealing a time capsule of ancient rubber bands and paperclips
“They didn’t complain- even at the end, these buildings.”
Grass will grow
Shingles will fall.
Roofs will leak-slowly at first, of course.
A creak and bang from an unknown source in Auto
Several bats peer out of hiding spots in the gym
And flex their wings with their toes.
A fly gives up buzzing and dies in a closed window.
The cool September breeze says, “hush,”
While snow silences the peaks of mountains and copperheads
Like the Mayans, evaporated into this piece of time and place.
Wood workings still in progress, unfinished step stools and cabinets,
Rough drafts and half-hewn calculations,
Brickwork drying uselessly to be broken
shoveled into a another landfill of human history.
One response to “The Closing of Natural Bridge Juvenile Corrections Center”
Amelia, this is the VERY BEST work I have read from you yet. Although I didn’t cry, (as I have from some of your earlier beauties) I think this is beautiful! Not to say that any of your other work is inferior, but I was transfixed by your imagery that brought with it a universal sense and emotion. Nothing but up for you.