Town Hall


The windows, lit already this early
morning, say the clerk has been here
to light the stove around which we’ll
start our work clustered tight as petals
to the heat and then blossom out
as warmth vines around the room.
Election Day in our town smells
of coffee; Janet brought a thermos
and donuts.

We take our stations as headlights flip,
window to window, across the building.
People are coming to vote before work.

This building was a school
for sixty years and has been our
town hall for forty-some more. There’s
a cloak room, this big room, and two
outhouses, Ma and Pa.

The door opens, shuts, cold hitches in
on the jackets of our citizens. They
take their paper ballots behind the curtains,
make their marks, slip the little squares
into the boxes Marcella guards with
her coffee in hand.

When my feet, even in these warm boots,
get too cold I find the thickest
books in the room—Wisconsin
Statutes and Annotations—and rest my dogs
on 102-247, away from
the icy linoleum. Lou takes 250-710
for her feet. We are careful and mean no
disrespect, it’s just so chilly
and the stove’s heat goes mostly up.

Late tonight votes will be counted.
People will take office far away
from this old building in our country
town. I know Marcella’s vote nearly
always cancels mine. What Janet thinks
she isn’t saying. Whatever the outcome we’ll
clean this place together, turn off the lights
and make sure the stove is cold. We don’t want
to burn down something
so useful to the people.

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