Living History

Eighteen Girl Scouts in gingham
bonnets taking turns at the butter
churn earning their
living history patch

they took us to a 19th-century lock house
on the C&O Canal
the docent told us
men back then transformed the river
into a machine
there were mules and barges
this was considered
an engineering marvel

I liked the butter smeared on saltines but I liked better
the fact that the lock keeper’s daughter
had drowned in the well
as if the river and the canal
were not domestic enough
places to die

one of the other Girl Scouts witnessed
a rocking chair shudder in the bedroom
where there was no breeze
there was no air
in the well
for the baby

were there ghosts in the butter churn
sucking fat and laughing at us
in our bonnets clinging to the sides of this
world like it would be
1983 forever

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