Wednesday, April 20, 2011



We saw first how the traffic was coming at us
Not right
Monday morning, a week of school vacation
And all this traffic, from where?
The closer we got to town, the more it appeared jumbled
Big pickup trucks and impatient drivers
Some frightened looks behind windshields
Then we saw the center of town was struck
A large fire on main street finally damped down
At the most elegant and historic section
Five floors, brick facade, slate roofing
Flames jumped for their lives for hours out the busted windows
Fire's devilish horns out the roof
Hysteria in the center of civilization
150 firefighters from three states were called in
Two million gallons of water was hosed
Firefighters were sent to the hospital
It was night time and a full moon was rising over our wooded hillsides
In the aftermath, in daylight, you could tell the different
Firefighters and towns by their different colored uniforms
Otherwise, all were equal all were spent
Water washed everywhere
Heavy smoke and water damage to all the stores on the bottom floor
This includes a thoughtful bath and kitchen boutique I went into once
An Asian craftsman, a Middle Eastern seller of fine delights, a restaurant that
Started as a bank where we obtained our house mortgage eons ago
Two shops at least that have just finished complete remodeling
Back to mud
And a legendary bookshop that shelved some of my books and much more
All that water used on the fire above---had to go somewhere---down
My wife and I walk up the startled main street closed to traffic
It now takes a state of emergency to find a town this quiet and humbled
Town folk walk dazed bewildered searching recalling sickened lost found
The closer we get to the building my wife holds me by the arm
Thirty years ago she worked here
When I look around I see behind us a young couple huddled, new to me
I don't know them but I do know them, she points high to
A blackened window for her companion's sake, and cries

A firefighter battled flames at a 5-alarm fire in the historic 59-unit Brooks House building Sunday in downtown Brattleboro, Vt.
photo : Jason Henske/ Brattleboro Fire Department via Associated Press