A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I’m trying to reach Superior, pull in
to an old gas station in southern West Virginia.
In the office a man sits on a high stool.
I ask him how to get there & he smiles,
most teeth gone, the remainder black.
Explains he stopped pumping gas
12 years ago–wasn’t but 2 or 3 people
a week drivin in for gas. Nothin to do here
now. People pass through on their way
somewheres else–like you. This was my daddy’s
station. Used to be different, Chrysler Crown
Imperials and Oldsmobile 98s comin in every day.
Clean office, 2006 wall calendar, brass
cash register. The last coal mine closed
in the ’70s, he says, adds that Walmart locked
its doors last January. You see For Sale signs
on buildings, windows boarded up or busted.
He takes out a faded Shell map, opens it, points.
Go down the road two mile, turn left on US 52,
that’s the Coal Heritage Trail. It’ll take you right
to Superior, real close to here. A toddler wanders in,
diaper dragging. Papaw, gimme candy. The man asks,
Where’s yer maw? She done took Sammy to the doc.
He sick. The man messes the child’s blond hair,
hands him two pieces of licorice. This here’s
my grandboy. His daddy–that’s my son–worked
in the mines 10 year–only 30 when the roof
collapsed, busted his back. Out of work since.
Grows pot, sells it for change. You want any?
Takes oxy for the pain. I buy a faded Chapstick.
Copyright 2017 Susan Sailer