Into the barn of memories and ghosts of cows, squawking chickens and ravenous pigs, all gone now although I, half-city girl, learned so much at four am almost forty years ago, in this place. The timbers creak and sunlight slips easily through cracks, as well as wrens but they are warbling in their wren-swooping way, back to nests that seem to drip from many seasons of safe corners. Close to my head, almost like bats at nightfall yet sweeter in the trill and absolute certainty of returning home to the same nest over and over. Plenty here to rebuild with, old hay, baling twine, the scattered remains of a working farm.


They say the barn I remember burned down and was rebuilt, but walking through feeding troughs, I say the bull with his nose ring was there, the cows to be groomed and milked in those non-existent stalls, the connections to the milking machine still in beams above. Towering tall and flicking flies with their tails, getting kicked once is enough, unless you like suddenly flying across a barn into a wall. You learn to shoulder them, these cow ghosts, especially the one who cries to her calf, penned for veal, to let them know you're there.


Doors once latched are propped open or taken down. Where chickens slept dreaming chicken dreams, and pecked at my metal-studded bell-bottomed blue jeans as I scattered grain before collecting eggs, someone has meticulously saved pieces of wood, door knobs and door hinges, jars of rusty screws and keys to nowhere. Steamer trunks from Germany that could or should have been hope chests for young women, sent off to America for fresh air and Jesus, for a better life.


I went in looking for some part of myself I've lost and came out with a doll house built by a German pastor who had sons who had sons, a dozen rusty and worn horse shoes, some with nails still in them, boxes of old Singer sewing machine attachments for hems and button-holes, a bright red can of Stanley's Crow Repellent (enough for two bushels of shelled seed corn), never opened. Next to a wheelbarrow full of old vinyl records and books about evangelism, I rescued a desecrated dictionary whose hard bound cover was deliberately ripped off, pages in the beginning and end, cut out in anger as if with a sharp scissors or knife, definitely on purpose removing most of the A's, any introductory pages plus the maps at the back.


I found a stack of paintings and prints, ranging from a poorly done paint-by-number to someone's colorful rendition of a village with great attention to building details, primitive, yet oddly mournful, to a decent landscape, trees and clouds reflected in an eroded riverbend. The most surprising was a print exactly like one that hung in my grandmother's bedroom, an angel watching over two small barefoot children crossing over a wooden bridge, river rushing below and one board missing, but the gap is behind them. There is only a railing on one side and it is broken, although an attempt was made to tie together a few branches. The children hold onto each other and the face of the girl is turned, as if whispering comfort to the little boy.


There was an unexplainable sadness to these treasures, the last one being a clear glass heart, not chipped, slipped into my pocket, found as I was leaving, in a drawer mostly stuck shut, not being used.

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