Charles Baxter: The Last Sign

A weekend drive: and we got lost just west
Of Waconia, near the lake whose name you couldn’t
Pronounce, though we knew it sounded like “Whisby” or
“Wherby,” and around then, cresting over a hill
We came to a green stretch of somebody’s farm,
The grass so saturated it might have been boiled
In paint, and you said, behind the wheel, “What
Have they done with the signs?” and sure
Enough, someone or something had taken down
The mileage marker to town X, also the name of the river
Over whose chuckling rivulets we were now crossing,
The posted speed limit, the billboards, all of them
Erased and dismantled—what a day that was,
To enter a town unbaptized from its birth onward
And which had remained nameless for all
Of its natural life, beautifully unmarked, and the labels
Forgotten or ignored, and so we were nowhere,
At zero, in this town without a sign to tell
You or anyone else what to call it, until the odd little man
Wearing the feed store hat approached our car
And asked offhandedly who we were and how we got
There. What a day that was! But I’m just making this up:
We knew all the names, all of them, it was just us
Who were speechless, that weekend, that drive.

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