The houses line what used to be a dirt road,
now paved asphalt painted with orderly stripes
of yellow and white. The hill slopes downward
towards crumbling brick buildings, what used to be
a mill humming with labor and life: twin smokestacks
smoldering, waterwheel whirring, giant spools of thread
spinning, with two thousand people aged one decade to six
working in continuous production
of soft flannels and plaids.
The chain of rust-eaten roofs, missing slats
of wood siding, untended yards overgrown
with clover and thistles. All the families packed up
and left half a century ago, when the machines
in the cotton mill ground to a permanent halt.
Jagged, broken doors hang off their hinges, lonely
for the former occupants who used to keep them swinging.
The windowpanes that do remain are shattered,
jutting shards of glass.
The houses stand near-empty. Shadowy remnants
of the spindle-cleaners, bobbin-stampers,
warpers, and winders seem to haunt
the ramshackle buildings they never owned
long after their few belongings were bundled
and tied onto the tops of half-broken, rusting pickups.
Steady breaths of lint and cotton
dust killed slowly; the end
of the mill and eviction quickened the rest.