The Winchester Saloon, ignited, fires memories
as fierce, as lively, as bright
as the destroying flames.
This spot on Main Street cradled Payson's life
for a hundred years. Through different owners,
and different purposes, transfers of deed
flickering through the years like dropped playing cards --
Burkdoll's, the Packard's, the Elks, the Gay 90s --
it's always been Payson's heart,
hot and pulsing, through Indian scares,
spilled beer, spilled blood, two fires,
the conflagrations of love at weddings and
those of grief, at funerals.
The roof that withstood '67's snows finally collapses,
sparks ascending with the gasps of the weeping assembled.
Anna Mae sobs in Tommie Martin's arms, hearing
Rose Childers sprightly piano, echoing from
the dances long ago. Others sense the soft guitars
playing in the languor of the night
for the ladies plying their eternal trade,
or old Jiggs, maddened by the smoke, barking.
eneath the flames voracious crackle,
the rustle of Sunday best during church services,
box socials, edifying lectures (complete with blameless snores),
the thump and cheers of basketball, the romp of dances,
the whisper of skates sliding through ice.
Within these incandescent walls time has bottled up
a century of music, gales of laughter, gallons of iced tea and
Payson Dew, the sap of our lives, distilled,
impregnating every surface.
On the street, standing as close as the heat
allows, as the firefighters rage, our bones resonate
as that maple floor, the Greenleafs' pride,
goes up. We grew up on Julia Randall's tales of
our people, through the '20s, erecting there the town's
Christmas tree, stowing gaily wrapped gifts under it and
festooning its branches with watches and jewelry
throughout December, then, Christmas Eve, all
gathering to release Christmas from its boxes,
its tissues, their hearts.
The loss of it. Our tears
should be equal to its quenching.
These sweet and salty memories
melting in the heat, rising
in the air as smoke, in our souls
as orisons --
The Winchester, our Winchester --
the Winchester Saloon is burning.
-- Carrie J. Carlson