by Kim Harvey
Follow Beautiful Run. You’ll find it
almost in the ravine. Take
the dirt road past sycamore
trees then walk a ways through the tall
grass and weeds and you’ll see
a mill house forty by forty feet
covered in kudzu and ivy where my great-great
grandfather once worked
and slept. Built five stories high
on sandstone and granite quarried from
the Massanutten mountains, boulders
hauled across ridges and gorges by oxen
and slaves who also walled up the dam by hand,
rock by rock, set the wooden overshot
wheel, scaled steep steps
to grind the grain, laid the lean-to
shingle roof, now sinking under
the weight of time. Look up
at two small windows staring back like blank
eyes, battered rafters roosting
a flock of black vultures who squawk
and grunt, guarding their young. Watch out
for copperheads skulking in the vast
crabgrass. See chickweed and dandelion
rising up through cracks in the warped floor,
how spiderwebs cloak its hulking
timber, white flour dust thick as frost.
Throughout its life, sold for debts,
one chancery suit to the next.
Held for a stretch and then lost.
*With thanks to the Virginia W.P.A Historical Inventory Project and the Virginia Conservation Commission, April 14, 1937.
[More poems by Kim Harvey]