You cannot find it
on the most recent maps.
Once you could.
A tiny dot in small print.
But not any longer.
It is too small.
In the middle of nowhere,
a confluence of four farms,
an ancient Methodist church
and a country store turned museum.
If you happen to be there,
there is a sign.
To announce your arrival and departure,
all in a blink. The sort of place
we make fun of,
And yet, people live here.
No fewer than they did in the day
when they rated a dot on the map in four-point type.
They are born here,
Grow up and age here.
There is drama. Love is discovered
Faith is found and lost.
They suffer, no fewer and no more
than a generation ago.
Your grandfather lived
on one of the four corner farms.
Your father was born here
and lay in the small oak crib
that now lives in your upstairs bedroom.
Your house, in fact, is a museum of sorts,
artifacts of generations scattered about,
proof that this place exists
not just in geography
but in soul.
About this poem.
I live in a little village called West Pawlet, Vermont. When I first moved here. It’s small. Including the farmers on the fringes, maybe 300 people according to the last census. When I first moved here, I used to think of it lovingly as “Nowhere, Vermont.” I often thought you could write a series of sketches, Lake Woebegon-like, about the area and the people.
Even though I worked most of my career in big cities, places like this have alway sung to me. I suspect it is because of the time I spent on my grandfather’s farm in Carsley, Virginia. I loved that time. I love that place. My great aunt, my father’s sister, still lives in my Grandfather’s house.
We forget such places. They get lost in headlines and the business of life. But they too are part of life. A place like Carsley, or here in West Pawlet, only looks bucolic. In reality, every challenge and vice and struggle of the big cities lives here as well, just without the resources to help them, because they are, after all, invisible.
Except to those of us who live here.
The picture was taken from the upstairs of the old country store, now turned into a museum, an effort led by my father many years ago to preserve a slice of the life he remembered. If you are seeing this on a phone, you probably can’t read the sign. It reads “Carsley”.