Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OLD MEN ON THE COURTHOUSE LAWN, MURRAY, KENTUCKY, by JAMES GALVIN

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First Line: You might call this / the far side of the river
Subject(s): Illinois; Indiana; Kentucky; Ohio; Rivers; Smoking; Tobacco; Pipes; Cigars; Cigarettes

You might call this
The far side of the river
If you ever lived in Indiana,
Ohio, Illinois.

There is no city
On the river's far side,
Just middling towns as similar
As printed roses on a widow's dress --

Perhaps you knew her.
She never moved away.

Nor are the old men
On the courthouse lawns in any of these towns
Any less like flowers
Since they rise at first light

And dress alike in overalls,
Gray shirts and caps,
As if they still had something
To do.

They have less to do
Than flowers.

They gather at the courthouse
From first light to last.
They chew their Mammoth Cave,
Their Copenhagen.

They comment on the height of the river.
They're too far gone to give a damn

About women anymore.
Tobacco stains bloom on the walk.

And now these men seem more to me
Like harmless old bees
Gathering the sweetness of the last, thin light
On the only side of the river they know.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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