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Crawfordsville Confidential

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1.

In the land of milk and cream delivered early
and daily, and always in glass bottles, we care
about good grooming and, of course, news
of slurs and curs ... Can it really be that home

becomes a place to be stranded?
“I don’t see a single storm cloud
anywhere in the sky, but I can sure smell rain,”
out on the edge of Crawfordsville, Indiana,
where the answers and questions become identical
as evil twins.


2.

Basketball ghosts bounce and sweat again
in that second-floor gym in the middle of July—
that never-to-be-forgotten home
of the first-ever Boys State Championship.
Rusty jump shots and long-ago corner hooks
rim out in a stream of dusted sunlight.
“Just to play the game, don’t you know,
you know, no matter how much the sacrifice ... ”
How searing afternoon’s vagueness now,
dreamed in a daylong haze of headache pills
downed at the General Lew Wallace Motor Lodge:
how the arc of the ball rises
to echoes of split-jump cheers
in lubricated air, when phantom bodies
strive and leap and go prostrate
to that squeak of rubber on polished wood—
in a game of shirts and skins.


3.

You can only wonder how Ezra Pound dissected his time here,
among tractors and proctors and temples of antebellum style,
as he cooed sweet Greek in the ear
of his secular Madonna ... Just now, two pigeons
greet first daylight on the Green of Wabash College.

Something to be said for being scandalized silly,
and in more than one language
when life becomes holier than the Crusades.
And what’s more—didactic passions
eventually drive you insane, thinks young EP, so what?
Sew buttons, ha!

And make it new always ... and always
leave the door cracked open, a light on,
and one foot on the floor.


4.

“The meatloaf here’s not very good,”
warns waitress Lucy, a pretty girl
with a tooth missing. Indifferently,
day proceeds utterly.
Off Country Road X-10, out by Carcus Creek,
driving past Minnie Betts’s florist shop
and what’s left of the old city jail,
you figure each small detail adds
glory to any story.
                            “Relax,” says Elton Bidwell,
the county’s dead-buzzard collector,
“I’ll take care of us all
when we com’ on home.”


5.

The town goes dark in a killer storm.
Collective forgetting and forgiving
occurs. But safety comes in many forms.
In this vast black you get to thinking
about giddy joys and little sorrows,
the curse of full employment at minimum wage,
and those conspicuous professors—
their bowties and braces speaking to the ages
and marking moments of learned unworthiness.
Maybe, it’s vacuum-packed fear
in a stage-managed town. Time to guess
what’s behind each tiny crime and local leer,
at once rancorous and baffling. Strangers
need not apply. A few lights click on
at the Shortstop Grille. These cruel weathers
turn asphalt slick. The old intramurals begin again.


6.

Early Sunday morning and a drunken Elton Bidwell
is strung like a scarecrow on his front porch swing,
deposited by Grand Wizards from the Odd Fellows Lodge bar
late last night—reminder to those devoted folks
heading up Church Street with songbooks in hand,
that home sure proves just another place to be stranded.


G. E. Murray, “Crawfordsville Confidential” from Arts of a Cold Sun. Copyright © 2003 by G. E. Murray. Used with the permission of the poet and the University of Illinois Press.
Source: Arts of a Cold Sun (University of Illinois Press, 2003)

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