Ghost Towns

by Rita Anderson

I do not remember whose idea it was
to visit Crabtree, Sandy, and Rheingold,
towns so ghosted from memory that

only longitude and latitude will find them,
but a somber air stills us when we spy
headstones through the wild grass on the hill

as we climb to enjoy a guilty beer at the table
between the old church and the schoolhouse,
where we discuss the ephemerality of our lives.

The directions say, You will pass a jackrabbit
that guards a cemetery that is as small and unfinished
as are most thoughts, and how oddly right it is

that solitude from our own pandemic drew
us here where, a century ago, cholera wiped
out these villages, but only the family who

owns the cemetery now bury their dead
in the unkept graveyard. A single gaze reveals
the depth of loss: It is an instant and understood

sadness of too many children felled
under markers that still look brand new,
but they go with no stories, only names—

and painfully-short dates. Silenced
ourselves, now, we close the gates
to everything but the lizard and the deer

that live here, the shuffle of bottlenosed
butterflies who migrate and mate this time
of year. Or end, en route, as a smear

on the windshield.

Rita Anderson is an internationally-published and an award-winning writer. She was Poetry Editor of Ellipsis (the annual literary journal of University of New Orleans), and both of her poetry books—The Entropy of Rocketman (Finishing Line Press) and Watched Pots: A Lovesong to Motherhood—have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has an MFA Creative Writing (Poetry Emphasis) and an MA Playwriting, and her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications.