Nod ‘morning’ when you get to Bodie

In praise - Bodie State Park, CA


They walked, they talked, they loved and they hated,
spread gossip—or at least listened. Grew up, fell down
and mostly, but not always, got right back up again.
Were pushed and were pulled, were driven and drove back,
were smacked and slapped down—often and hard—
but learned to keep their peace about it, or else.
Some bickered, some didn’t, some drank, some wouldn’t,
some forgave, most couldn’t, but they all cried and laughed
and got together on Sunday to sing His Grace Abounding,
with, on a good day, some extra for the heathens.

Barbers and butchers, buyers and sellers,
leeches—practiced with the bone saw, who’d as soon
kill you as look at you—barkeeps, gamblers,
gunslingers and whores: most came west
because of the War Between the States,
the rest because the best had fallen there.

But in that when—and here in this place—they all came together,
scrabbling for a life, sweating and crying,
birthing and dying, and no one now,
not one today to remember them, any of them,
not a soul to give them voice.
And yet here we all are
and here we all live,
together in this quiet, empty ghost town,
living on the edge of whenever.


Bodie is a wild west ghost town in the Bodie Hills, which are east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California. Located at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, the summers are dry and cool and the winters bitter cold, conditions that help keep the town remarkably well preserved. The reasons for its abandonment over the years are many, but all tied to gold and silver mining and the economic boom and bust of Victorian aged California. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark and by California as a California Historical Landmark designated as Bodie State Historic Park. The photograph is entitled In praise and is one of two sets of photographs about Bodie that you can find on the Book of Bokeh site, here and here.

Thank you for reading Ghost town. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

As I noted above, for more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.


Filed under Poetry

5 responses to “Nod ‘morning’ when you get to Bodie

  1. Beautifully described, John.
    We also have some ghost towns here – everyone migrated to the cities to earn a living – not a fair trade at all, but they are hopeful…

    • Denise, thank you for the lovely compliment. I was left with an incredible sense of impermanence after visiting there, realizing that all we have while we are alive can so quickly fade and go away, and who is there to remember us? How transitory is life…

  2. This poem evoked a similar emotion I experience when walking through graveyards.
    So many stories that I’m completely unaware of.

    • Very true, and yes the feeling is very much the same. I just kept thinking, “Who will walk through my life in a hundred years? Who will remember me? Anyone?” I came to the decision that you are not dead until there is no one left living who can remember you as a person…then you are finally GONE.