They are tearing down the old to make way for the new.
Humble ranches replaced by towering monstrosities.
First a Kmart, now a Target
A seaside motel replaced by the Ritz.
This used to be a hick island--
A northern Florida beach town with a Southern Georgia sensibility
But rich folks discovered it.
And, like Columbus before them, invaded the native land.
There used to be sand mounds
lining the two-way highway onto the island.
Now there’s a Panera, a Starbucks, and strip mall after strip mall
Hugging four lanes, soon to be six,
Beauty gone, replaced by brick.
Years ago, you drove down the road alone,
And waved if you saw an oncoming car,
You passed Yulee, a one-light town,
And swerved at the dead armadillo on the side of the road.
Now you weave in and out among out-of-towners,
license plates of snow-birds,
speeding down the highway,
on their way to winter homes.
Give me the old, the simple, the rusty and tired.
Give me a T-Ray’s burger cooked inside an old gas station.
Give back the simple shack that stood before Grisham built his
And give back the thick Southern accents, flavored by a salty sea,
Who told tall tales sure to be lies,
but you believed anyway.
Because you wanted to believe.
Coming faster than I’d like.
Once I was the child, running into the water,
Now it’s my children.
Soon their children.
Once I was the child, building castles,
While my parents sat and watched.
Now I’m the parent watching.
Except it’s not just my children whom I’m eyeing to protect.
My parents began the slow process
Of reverting back to childhood,
Of dependence, of stubbornness, of temper tantrums
when told something they don’t want to hear.
They’ve begun the slow dim of their days.
It’s all around me.
More than ever.
And even though I know it inevitable,
I still want everything to stay the same.
3/7/2017 09:00:59 am
"Beauty gone, replaced by brick." I love your piece, Brian. It is sweetly nostalgic and rings honest and true. How you move this piece from the changing beach town to your role of becoming a parent to your parents. So many connections for me. This was beautiful and a little heart-breaking at the same time.
Mary Ann Reilly
3/7/2017 12:10:17 pm
This line is a killer: "Beauty gone, replaced by brick." Wow.
3/7/2017 09:13:45 pm
I find your ending and he image comforting. Change is all around, yet the sun still rises and sets and provides a beautiful sky. You capture the before and now so clearly. Thanks for sharing a beautiful poem.
3/7/2017 10:03:00 pm
Change is hard. Your words, however, are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us.
3/12/2017 04:00:47 pm
I'm just beyond this stage, my parents having both died, but yes, it's hard and more bitter than sweet. Still I remember the lines from the James Taylor song about change in his childhood setting. "It doesn't come as a surprise to me; it doesn't touch my memory."
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About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.