The mailbox hangs rusting on the ironwood post
cut with a bow saw and tamped into a hole dug by hand
at the side of the gravel road.
The name is almost legible, rust on rust and the flag is up
as if the box still held important letters to mail.
Close by the road stands the store building, its porch floor thin and fragile
from too many years and too many feet passing over its planks.
There are grooves in the boards from the rockers that once were there,
and a brown-stained ring recalls a spittoon and men in overalls
with bags of Mail Pouch tucked into bibs.
Windows with vacant eyes and faded stickers look out at the road
where wagons once passed, making their way along the turnpike
to the tollgate just ahead.
To the left and set back from the road is a house
that surely must have been the storekeeper’s home.
Its wire fence is recalled only by metal fragments hanging on posts,
and a gate, open to daffodils lining a rutted path.
A small barn with a hitching post and an upside-down horseshoe
is empty, no horses or hay or stacks of feed within. Cobwebs
blow in the rafters; there is a smell of mice and old dung.
I pull off the road, get out of my car and listen. There is nothing
but the music of a small stream beside the barn, the whisper of wind
through the barn’s loft, and birds singing territorial carols.
I strain my ears for faint traces of voices and my eyes
sweep from house to barn to daffodils, seeking the story
of who lived here, and why they left.
The place keeps its secrets from me,
and I slowly drive away, looking
in my rearview mirror as if it held the magic
to see an invisible past.