Burlington Railroad Depot – Bogard, Missouri
Date unknown. This is another piece of Bogard’s past
that had already disappeared in my youth during the Sixties.
The following note preceded the poem on Facebook.
A New Poem About Bogard, Missouri, Hometown of My Youth
How this poem came about is a lot like how my memory works. Yesterday, my friend Lamar Graham posted a 360-degree panorama photo of the main business street of the town (which is actually Third Street), and while I was perusing its details of damage, decay, and desolation, I started seeing through the picture and into the past that I and others lived there. From the thread of comments and replies the picture generated questions were raised and answered, more memories jarred loose or fell into place, missing pieces of time were regained. And voila, throughout the day this poem took form. These recaptured pieces began with Lamar’s picture and were added to by remarks made by Ken Edwards, Mildred Dorsey, and my cousin Nancy C. Wagaman in San Diego. I’m posting the poem now, though I may yet make subtle revisions to it if they occur to me, but for now this is how it stands. In the poem’s epigraph, which acknowledges a nod to the Ted Hughes poem “The Thought Fox,” the only true connection to that poem is in realizing the poem’s metaphor describes how my memory works in retrieving forgotten pieces of the past. I should add too that the pictured condition of the Soldier’s Memorial belies the devastation of the business blocks just a few yards east of its location. And there is one point contrary to truth: Main Street in Bogard actually runs perpendicular (north/south) to the business blocks (Third Street, east/west), but in my youth and in recent years I have always remembered downtown Bogard as “main street.” I have kept Main Street in the poem’s title because of its resonance as a memory place in American literature as well as a common place name in towns across the nation.
A Late Dispatch from Main Street
(Bogard, Missouri – 1940)
—with a nod to the Ted Hughes poem “The Thought Fox”
Boys who became old men and died when
I was young remembered Bogard in its pre-war
business heyday seventy-five years ago and more.
Despite occasional hard times, the town had once
maintained more than thirty thriving businesses
up and down the streets in a community of maybe
five hundred souls in the good years they numbered.
In time the town dwindled to less than three hundred
in the years of my youth there. It’s just a ghost town
now—satellite images showing depressions where
dead buildings once stood; others crumble as I speak.
One friend’s father delivered the Bogard Dispatch
newspaper all over the small town as a boy, his bicycle
spinning wind and gravel dust into no one’s eyes now.
My great uncle Luther ran a harness and shoe repair
and dabbled for a time in his son’s Conoco business
until the Pearl Harbor bombs pulled Harold
into the war. Whether they called their cars
jalopies in the Depression or hotrods in later days,
town and country boys alike hung out at the gas
station on the corner, trading yarns about Saturday
nights over soft drinks purchased for nickels and dimes.
Machines dispensing those drinks then sell today
as antiques for dollars they never dreamed possible.
It’s a work of faith to know the town still supports two
churches, one Baptist and one Methodist, for diehard
residents who refuse to move and live in fading houses
clustered on the periphery of its former business hub.
The farmers’ bank named for the town moved to Carrollton,
the school yard became a park memorializing the past
where children swung, played tag, and yelled
“hill dill” on a tattered field. Though the Methodists
only post a congregation of eight, the post office survives
in the Memorial Hall for veterans of the first world war,
the people hang on there like members of a broken body
guarding their bruised soul. More than one aging wife
frowns as she murmurs home is where the heart lies
and adds to her shopping list for stores ten miles away.
Ironic how our memories work—thoughts like foxes
prowling the edge of dark woods until the page is printed.
March 3, 2015
Link for “The Thought Fox” with an audio file: