Poem: The Secret Life of Ruins


The Secret Life of Ruins

The silo sits at the edge of the road.
The barn around it half burnt to the ground.
You pass it each day, a remnant of life
before you came.

You cannot recall a time when it was more
than a ruin. You have never seen it,
seasonally full of new corn, never seen it
dispense its fodder and feed.

A John Prine song in steel and wood,
it sings in the late day sun
of farms and worlds allowed to die
as a world, fast and hungry, passes it by.

You stop on a cloudy day and draw close.
Your hand grasps the cold metal.
It is still strong and solid, quietly defiant
against the more than a decade of neglect.

You bond, aware of the power of that neglect.
You have allowed it to happen in your own life
and for a time, lived the life of a ruin,
before time did the strangest thing

and healed you and made you both
stronger and softer, a paradox
of broken power that even you have not come
to understand fully.

About this poem

The silo is just across the state border in New York. It’s part of a small barn complex that has been in ruin since a fire for more than a decade. It is one of those pictures that had a poem in it and I just had to wait for it to emerge.


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