Iowa Writes

RYAN ROENFELD
The Ruins of Iowa


The irises returned,
year after year,
long after everything else
had gone away,
outlasting even
the daylilies in the ditch.
A purple reminder
to mark where there
was once a front walk.
The well was lost back in brome
and the windbreak of
Lombardy poplars
long since gave way with
the root cellar a barely
discernible dip.

The barn lasted longest,
barely, leaning a bit further
after a century of February wind
left gray boards exposed
to another August sun
that had stripped
white paint away long ago.
The ghosts of Belgians and bantams
inside had caused no disturbance
to the crazed flight of the swallows
through the gaping windows
without glass.
The farrowing house
a pile of rotted splinters close-by,
the granary less than that,
and the corn-crib burned
down for the fun
of volunteer firemen.

The irises returned,
year after year,
long after everything else
had gone away,
outlasting even
the daylilies in the ditch.
A purple reminder
to mark where there
was once a front walk.
The well was lost back in brome
and the windbreak of
Lombardy poplars
long since gave way with
the root cellar a barely
discernible dip.

The barn lasted longest,
barely, leaning a bit further
after a century of February wind
left gray boards exposed
to another August sun
that had stripped
white paint away long ago.
The ghosts of Belgians and bantams
inside had caused no disturbance
to the crazed flight of the swallows
through the gaping windows
without glass.
The farrowing house
a pile of rotted splinters close-by,
the granary less than that,
and the corn-crib burned
down for the fun
of volunteer firemen.

There, amongst that grove of mulberry,
can you see that rusted corn elevator
barely peeking out?
Will you see the hay rake
that cost such a pretty penny in 1912
that waits with tetanus for
someone to stumble
while picking amongst
the staining berries?
Over there, by that fence post
standing solitary,
abandoned by its wire.
Do you see?

And the talking wires,
strung up high, now
broken shards of blue
insulators in a straight line
all that's left to remind
where they tore out the tracks
on the Kansas City line.
They tore out those tracks
but left nothing behind.
No more whistles will
echo down the Nishnabotna
though the night.
That train don't run through
here no more.

Instead, down the cracked
highway, the black-tar asphalt,
passed by on the four-lane
from Omaha to Illinois
with a knowing nod
that there were
more folks in the cemetery
than left alive in these towns.
Passed the miles and miles
of orderly rows,
terraced carefully,
fertilized appropriately,
tended by someone
who don't have nine kids
at Sand Hollow school
down the road this year.

These are the ruins of Iowa
and watching the dirt blow in the wind
no longer means the same.
Out on the barstools of Avoca
they sing the same old sad lament
'bout how Granddaddy drank the farm.
Order another round and wait
for the dust from the fields
to rise again from spring plowing
with envy as green as John Deere.
The black locusts will still bloom
down Green Hill for
another year
I hope.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


RYAN ROENFELD

Ryan Roenfeld has lived his entire life in Glenwood, Iowa but sometimes wishes he didn't.

This page was first displayed
on December 10, 2008

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