Town Square

by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block
Third Place, May 2021
Judged by Sarah Carleton

On the courthouse lawn, old grey men
pass a bottle they hide in the mouth
of a cannon dragged from the field
of some long forgotten skirmish.

They swig and swap lies about wars
and women lost, sons whose names
it is now hard to remember, forget
for a time their pain and loss, until

they snooze on benches beneath
chestnut oaks that themselves were
once young, but now missing limbs,
holes cement-filled, whitewashed.

On windy days, the metal lanyard
of the chain-fall striking the
flagpole sounds like a church bell
calling home the lost and the broken.

I've been through a lot of towns with memorials and benches, and “Town Square” perfectly captures the unsettling feeling of those locations. Starting with "old grey men" pulling a bottle from the mouth of a cannon and ending with the flagpole "like a church bell / calling home the lost and broken," the poet paints a scene of a lonely place where memories have been whitewashed and damage patched but the pain still lingers. A powerful and haunting poem. --Sarah Carleton