It’s rather like snow: in the beginning,
immaculate, brilliant, the trees shocked
into a crystalline awareness of something



remarkable, like them, but not of them,
perfectly formed and yet formless.
You want to walk up and down in it,



this bleak, maizeless field of innocence
with its black twigs and blue leaves.
You want to feel the silence crunching



beneath your … shoes, but soon …
the trees no longer
bear sunlight, the sky has dragged down



its gray dream, and now it’s no longer snow
but something else, not water or even
its dumb cousin, mud, but something used,



ordinary, dull. Then one morning at 4 a.m.
you go out seeking that one feeble remnant,
you are so lonely, and of course you find



its absence. An odd thing, to come upon
an absence, to come upon a death, to come upon
what is left when everything is gone.

B. H. Fairchild, from “The Death of a Small Town,” in The Art of the Lathe (Alice James Books, 1998)