By Mary Barnard 1909–2001 Mary Barnard
Rotting in the wet gray air
the railroad depot stands deserted under   
still green trees. In the fields
cold begins an end.

There were other too-long-postponed departures.   
They left, finally, because of well water   
gone rank, the smell of fungus, the chill   
of rain in chimneys.

The spot is abandoned even in memory.
They knew, locking doors upon empty houses,   
to leave without regret is to lose
title to one home forever.

Mary Barnard, “Crossroads” from Collected Poems (Portland: Breitenbush, 1979). Used by permission of the Estate of Mary Barnard.

Source: Poetry (February 1944).


This poem originally appeared in the February 1944 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 1944
 Mary  Barnard


Mary Barnard was born in Vancouver, Washington and attended Reed College where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1932. Her works include A Few Poems (1952), The Mythmakers (1966), Three Fables (1975) and Nantucket Genesis: The Tale of My Tribe (1988). She was awarded Poetry Magazine’s Levinson Award in 1935, the Elliston award for her book Collected Poems (1979), the Western States Book Award in 1986 for her book Time and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Time & Brevity, Growing Old

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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