Johnstown, PA. September 9, 1889 Half my life has been spent in motion, and so it is fitting I conduct my field work from this abandoned box car. What do I need beyond a wooden crate for a desk, milking stool for a chair? My spine a sufficient backrest. Four months now since the great flood, and already we've built housing for scores of homeless. Running water, both cold and hot. No person in need of clothing or food is left empty-handed. Money in pockets. Thanks to my nurses, the typhus is contained. If only we could heal broken spirits. I trust time will do its best work there. Never have I been prouder to see Red Cross banners flying above our white tents. General Hastings has proved a worthy partner I recall our first meeting in June when, ankle-deep in muck, hatless, doubtless disheveled, I stood surveying the devastation when he swung down from his horse, and offered his hand: Dear woman, may I assist you? I had to hide my smile. At the end of a long day, I prize the night's silence. Let the visions of wreckage, the bewildered faces fall away. I stretch out on a cot narrow as myself, and feel the fatigue in these old limbs. Glad for clean bedding and a woolen blanket this rainy night. I shall not leave until my work here is finished. Daily the town rebuilds, home by home, shop by shop. Smoke from the Gautier steel works will rise again, like Lazarus, having nothing whatever to do with miracles.
Barbara Sabol’s fourth poetry collection, Imagine a Town, was published in 2020 by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Her work has appeared most recently in Evening Street Review, One Art, Mezzo Cammin, Literary Accents and Modern Haiku, and in numerous anthologies. Barbara’s awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Akron, OH.