off the blue highways


written to a prompt from

Safe Place

not far from where the James Boys
once holed up,
we found a bank,
emptier than they would have left it,
at the intersection of two wrinkled gray roads.

its neighbors were dead as it was:
a grocery, a filling station, a brick hotel
and there was a cemetery on the hill.

we rubbed two clean holes
below gold-lettered consonants
in the bank’s grime yellow window.

behind the tarnished tellers’ grates,
the steel cave vault was dark in the shadows.




    • I guess they do, don’t they? I’m not that conscious a writer. Probably comes from being a bad reader: just wanting the what-comes-next.

    • I was thinking they were just ahead of the curve. It was an odd place. Hadn’t been cleaned after things were moved out. There were still papers scattered on the floor, blank deposit slips and glossy fliers.

    • Back when what some seem to think of as the oppressive government limited banks in Tennessee to those chartered in the state, there were little banks in most small towns. Almost mom-and-pop money stores. Most of the ones that were put out of business were put to other uses, clothing boutiques and architects. This little crossroad just stopped.

  1. The “two wrinkled gray roads” and “two clean holes” really caught me in this one for no particular reason. There’s a very haunted atmosphere; I want to know more legends about this place, and from the tantalizing tidbits you give us, I suspect its safety is/was different for different people…

    • Oddly enough, Jos, it was a very real crossroads in the hilly, overgrown farm country I’m always astounded to find less than fifteen minutes from the Capitol and downtown Nashville.
      There was still a church in business, but that was it.

      I wasn’t thinking about safety. just that the bank was a place with a safe.

      Jesse James lived around here for a while. He and Frank played cards in gentlemens’ clubs and farmed. But they were away a lot, on business.

  2. The thought processes revealed in your responses to the comments are almost as interesting as your poem. The phrase
    “brass and mahogany, and dust” epitomises bank for me – my father was a bank manager, and your words called up memories of the occasions when Dad took mw to work with him on a Saturday morning.

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