A Town Too Small For Maps
Folks used to call her Sauls’ Crossroads,
but the postal service said the name was too long.
So, somebody thought on it, yelled “Eureka!”
Eureka, that ancient exclamation of inspiration.
The name stuck long enough to celebrate
her centennial. They say Sherman marched through
once, stopped for a drink, Atlanta ash still on his boots.
There’s time to think on a lot of things here.
The stoplight stays red long enough for drivers
to look both ways at boarded up storefronts.
Post office doubles as a town hall. Over there
used to be Sauls’ General Store. After school,
we’d meet for 3-cent gum and a 12-ounce coke,
maybe a run at Gallaga or Ms. Pac-Man.
In the pine-draped house a quarter mile down
lived Miss Nancy, a state representative.
I once sat in her house, a spell of dark wood.
Thick, bronzed plaques lined her walls. They say
she could match wits with the best in Raleigh.
The only grocery in town shut down last year.
A few gas stations keep a steady business
for the families and farms that remain.
The elementary school closed after consolidation.
Weeds spike through faded lines in the parking lot.
Outside town long rows of tobacco
lined the highways. How I’d pray
the harvester would get to the end.
Reach down, curl a hand around
the stalk, break off three, four leaves
from the bottom, dump it in the tray again
and again. Hands and forearms turned gummy black.
‘Baccer dew wet our shirts, dried stiff as blood.
Early mornings we’d top and sucker,
break off flower tops, pinch out buds,
flick fat, green worms from the leaves.
We’d stop mid-morning when the boss man
or the boss man’s son brought us
Little Debbies and a coke bottle I’d tilt sideways
to suck down faster, feel the burn in my cheeks.
By August, we’d be at the bulk barns, sifting
through crispy, golden leaf, toss out what’s burnt.
Burlap bundled plump, knotted, bound for market.
Stack ‘em high in the big trucks, boys!
Leaves littered the sides of highways,
like money spilled out of a stolen bank truck.
And the best brand of flue-cured that season
paid for school clothes and car payments.
Now those fields yield cotton, far as the eye
wants to see, rows that end in dark woods.
The sharecropper shacks and tin barns lean
like old men waiting to fall, ready to die.
Fields stretch on for miles to other crossroads —
Patetown, Nahunta, Faro, Black Creek.
When a lady asks me where home is,
I pause a moment to give her an approximation,
knowing she won’t stray too far to find
what lies in a town too small for maps.
Near Goldsboro, I say, about an hour east of Raleigh.
— Michael Beadle
Morning at Fontana Lake
ghost gods of fog
float in the coves
shade a vague horizon
scratches of gray
unzips the flesh of lake
with its wake
things stir between trees
birds the size of fruit
perch on the deck
jerk their necks
mint stone coins
plenty for skipping
— Michael Beadle