Snow, Rust, Dust, Coal

— Robert Miltner

The woods of the Cuyahoga Valley wear silence like fresh snowfall. Stands of dark tree trunks could be abandoned houses. Frames of roofless homes show where siding slid from structure, where plaster has fallen from lath. Lintels and sills of doorframes remain open. Dark-eyed juncos fly through glassless windows empty as the eyes of roadkill. It could be a rustbelt city like Youngstown, Lorain, Sandusky, Elyria, East Liverpool. Or a coal mining town where two roads cross in the southeastern Meigs County Appalachian foothills where ballads of busted dreams get sung in the same key. Hope stays silent as a mouse in snow, frail to falter to fail to stillness. Crows defeather the body, strip the skin. Ants follow pheromone paths, scrape the skeleton. Leaves cover what remains. Sleet to ice to freezing insistence shatter aged bones. Summer scorches farms into autumn droughts. Displaced shadows settle into tinged soil, a cicatrix amidst the text of the earth.

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