The Town of Broken Things

by Subhaga Crystal Bacon

Summer mornings when I was small, I would awaken
to the auctioneer’s call. Big trucks would come to haul
peppers and tomatoes, cantaloupes, and peaches,
cucumbers, radishes, and scallions from a street called
Market Place. Trees threw shade along its length, tall
already when I came along. When I was five,
I ran barefoot in hide-and-seek on that cool street
and leapt with both feet around one of those trees
onto a broken Coke bottle. My beautiful neighbor
with her upswept hair carried me home, bleeding
on her white shorts and sandals.

Downtown was a different place, old Victorians,
and shambling ancient houses, where, in early days,
glass was made from sand and fire, shards
still buried beneath the ground. Later, the factory
came, Corning Glass, and three bars
in degrees of shabby. In my high school years, a headshop
where I walked one Saturday to meet my friend B
who lived in the black section. In a back room
lit by black lights, a poster with astrology
signs on it, Cancer, the number 69.

There’s a college out by the old peach orchards
where I spent four years shedding the husk of family.
It grew from normal school to teachers’ college to university,
took over old downtown where we used to go
to Nellie’s Main Street Tavern, or the secret gay
gathering place in Little Italy, DeFrans,
or Mazzeo’s if there was a band. We’d drink beers
from sweaty glass pitchers when we were a crowd, home
for Thanksgiving. Now it’s a warren of glass and chrome,
the sanitized offerings of Everytown.

There’s a park in the center of my square of blocks where I broke
my arm at ten, and some kids lost their virginity—
there and the auction off-season. Those empty warehouses
with rows of roller conveyors. Bodies of broken
baby birds beneath the frames. There was sex
in the bushes, the basements, an outgrown playhouse. I’ve never
known if this was normal, happened in every town
small or large or cities where kids grow
into curiosities and desires, or if it was just us
in the buried glass shards and orchard runoff of home.


Subhaga Crystal Bacon is a Queer poet living in rural northcentral Washington on unceded Methow land. She is the author of four collections of poetry including Transitory, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Award for Poetry, forthcoming in the fall of 2023 from BOA Editions, and Surrender of Water in Hidden Places, winner of the Red Flag Poetry Chapbook Prize. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in 45th Parallel, Rogue Agent, The Indianapolis Review, and Rise Up Review. She is an avid hill-walker and lover of nature who spends most days contemplating what’s moving, growing, or arriving around her.