Ghost Towns on the Web and Elsewhere

Ghost Towns on the Web and Elsewhere

A Poem by Studio Dongo

The slow, smokeless burning of decay can be reassuring in its way.

A bamboo forest isn't scary to a child,
not to a child in east Texas who has no idea
that the bamboo must have come from somewhere else,
that it had to be planted there
at first at least
as an act of botanical bowdlerization
perhaps to mask
the obscenity of naked pine stumps.

The boy follows a cat into the bamboo.
"Here kitty-kitty.  Here kitty-kitty."

The cat charges away, tired of being petted, ready for new stimulation.

When the cat is no longer visible,
the child is only momentarily sad,
for there are spider webs
and lizards
and plenty of interesting things to see.
There is even one old rotten bamboo plant
that breaks near the ground when the child bumps into it.
Voila!  A walking stick.

But the child has turned around too many times.
The bamboo is over his head
in every direction.
He has no idea which way he came from.
He must find a way to higher ground
to get his bearings
in this sea of bamboo.

His mood sours
when he tries to use the rotten walking stick
to pry a path
through a dense clump of bamboo.

The stick shatters, and he cuts himself, and now the fact that he is lost seems important.


That is a different cat
than the one he was chasing before.
How far has he come?

His parents watched a documentary about the Civil War
the night before.
And as he looks at his bleeding hand,
he thinks about the way the doctor on the show said, "Gangrene,"
and he begins to worry
with typical childish exaggeration
about the inevitability of amputation.

"Can you even get gangrene from rotten bamboo?"
he wonders.
"Probably," he decides.
"Definitely," he whispers to himself, some sadistic corner of his brain
wondering what kind of effect this pronouncement will have on him.

So he starts to run
in a blind panic
because there may still be time to save his arm.

He knows exactly where he is going:
And he will keep going forward
until he finds a break in the bamboo
like maybe a creek
or a road
or something--
that isn't just more of the same walls of bamboo towering over him in all directions. 

But what he finds isn't a creek
or a road.

It's a house.
One among many.
"Old slave quarters," his father will later explain, although his father will only be guessing.

The word you choose invents a history for the buildings
before you've even figured out what they are.

Whatever you call the structures, people lived here once.
But no one lives here now.
The boy has never seen a stove like that,
but he recognizes the hand pump at the sink
from reruns of The Rifleman.

He goes from one house to another.
Most of the windows are broken.
Many of the doors are missing.
One door creaks eerily as he enters a forbidding room.

Within, the heavy floorboards have been breached
by the relentless bamboo.
It grows inside the house
bending towards the light,
its new chutes slowly pushing up other floorboards
that cling with feeble nails
to the joists beneath.

The child cannot believe his eyes.
The bamboo is winning. 
The little wooden house stands no chance.

This comes as a surprise to him. 

Years later,
the grown boy will do research on the web.
He will follow discussions full of hyperlinks,
and sometimes the hyperlinks will take him to blogs that have long been abandoned.

He will find a blog with the last entry dated May 3, 2001.
That is the way with bloggers.
Sometimes they lose interest in their own projects.
A few may take down their blogs when they stop.
But most just peter out.

The templates the bloggers picked out are just as crisp and sleek as ever.
There is often a flashing banner across the top,
perhaps a once-carefully maintained list of additional hyperlinks on the side.
There may be comments at the bottom,
conversations as earnest
as Keats' bridegroom
and just as frozen.

But an old blog isn't like an old book
or a Grecian urn. 

The pages don't brown over time.
The URL doesn't crack and chip with rough handling.
There's no musty smell. 
That's the most distressing part. 
There is no slow, smokeless burning of decay. 

This, too, comes as a surprise to him. 

© 2013 Studio Dongo

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Hello, you submitted this poem for my Educational Poems contest. I would just like you to know that I enjoyed reading this very much. If it doesn't win the contest, I just want you to know that it is not because this poem is not good...because it is. It is one of the beat I have read so far. IF it does not win, It is only because another poem was more educational. Thank you very much for your submission...Absolutely wonderful read!! And do me a favor....keep writing; you are great!

Posted 7 Years Ago

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Added on January 28, 2013
Last Updated on January 28, 2013
Tags: bamboo, abandonment, rotting, internet, pristine, preservation, immortality, permanence, ephemeral


Studio Dongo
Studio Dongo

Lawton, OK

Discovering what it means to write for search engines instead of people. more..