Our Memories Are Burning, One By One

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The Winchester Saloon, ignited, fires memories

as fierce, as lively, as bright

photo

The legendary Winchester Saloon burned to the ground, inspiring a poetic lament by Carrie Carlson.

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

photo

Carrie J. Carlson

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

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