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Valley Time 

Away from the coast, for several days in June,
Where the river bends broad and wide, Spring holds on,
Giving way to an old vibrancy still lingering in the valley.
A chance morning rain: warm, brief, light as a whisper,
Sharpening the songs of birds and painting the last flowers across fields
Between dwellings added on to over the years.
The kinds of homes that either gather character, or become ramshackle.
If you are not careful, this seems like the way it always should be.

Look across the green fields, and see an old tractor here and over there,
Now rusted fossils of moving days, times of hard work,
And lazy Sunday afternoons, when kids would skip stones across the river.

A metal-sided shop, banged, dented and dulled,
Held fast by the thorns of blackberry vines,
Now only kept clear near a single door:
An oil stained opening to more rust, stories and passed toils.
Somewhere, in there, sometime, things just stopped.
But the smell of grease still lingers, over the tinge of mice and cobweb.

You don’t have to be careful in August, days of relentless sun and heat:
Wilting everything into tangled, thorny masses
Covering once proud fences, and clutching old projects
Long enough for them to wither of procrastination on hot, windless afternoons,
When soil bakes into hard, aching sticker-ridden swaths,
And old metal sorely creaks and groans,
Thirsting for the first cheating rain of late September.

If you are not careful, and forget this time,
When the soul of this place was able to pause
And exhale the long breath of relief,
you will be swallowed whole in this empty celebration.

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Sam A. Flanagan

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