It begins with the torn-away roof, soft plinks on a mirror propped in the dark. Silent water rivulets down the decrepit face of the brick and puddles under a threadbare sofa, as if unready to sort out all the rummage.
In this basement, the root of the Grapevine, the town's forgotten scrapbooks are scattered alongside Zane Grey novels and cigar boxes, paralyzed typewriters, Coke bottles, Clue sets, trinkets, rings passed from mother to daughter.
The water inches higher, hoists first the chairs, then chessboards, a chaise lounge, empty trunks. Milk crates full of warped records jostle about: Eddy Arnold, out-of-print Lawrence Welk. A mannequin flails and drowns. Last of all, the fuse box high on the wall flings away a rain of sparks. 40-watt bulbs flicker out.
The facts reported by the Union Recorder end there. Still, in images that flash between their days and acts, the townspeople see water slipping into their basements -- a flood to bear away the flotsam of their lives. In a drenched dawn they huddle on rooftops, their children and their old shaking in blankets. Gazing at their town, now a lake, they pray for rescue -- refugees from what began as only an accrual of the needless, only weeping.
This poem first appeared in an earlier form in The Southern Poetry Anthology, volume 5: Georgia, in 2012, as "The Death of Auntie Bellum's Attic." Copyright 2014 by Joshua Lavender.