Centennial, 1986


There on the television was a story

about a town someplace

that lost its past

or at least forgot where they put it.

So they brought in a bloodhound to find it,

putting their faith in his olfactry powers.

But the dog––well he did what dogs do best,

he sniffed, then pee'ed on their pretty flowers.


Every twenty five years or so,

(including twenty five years ago)

they would bundle up some current stuff

some news and views and pointless fluff

that seemed important in the rhythm

and the rime of their lives,

put it in a box and seal it up

and bury it in town until next time;

then dig it up again

so they would always know where they had been

and who they are.


Except this time around, when

no one around can 

remember where they put the box, and

no one who put it down is alive anymore.


So they are all sort of lost,

adrift in the present without a past

wondering if any of them is alive anymore.

Except for one old guy who remembers everything

and said look under the flowers 

that the bloodhound pee'ed on.

But there was only earth,

which they don't think is the town's past.


They are a hundred years old now,

which they know because

all around them are statues

and buildings and libraries full of books

and piles and piles of old newspaper files

and school where they learned about history and stuff

and people who have been living there

whose Dads and Moms lived there and loved there

and loved them and taught them all about what used to be and stuff

and they are all buried in the earth

(that they don't think is a part of their history)

under the old trees near the church

where they all got christened and married and buried

(that they don't know is a part of their past, you see)

with headstones all carved in the '80s

and in these '80s all caved in

but you can still read them, and they are not lost.


They are their own history

really, but they don't know it 

really, because they can't find it--

the tin box that isn't their history, really,

that the old guy now says is down by the train station.

But it's not, really.


Now they all are afraid if they don't find it soon

they won't ever know who they are

'cause they can't have a present without a past

while time and the present have passed 

by them like the train.

Well, they will search their town in vain

but may never see a century again.


Because they have all forgotten about now and here

and self, friends, loves and . . . oh dear,

I forgot . . . the bloodhound

who tried to show them how

to keep things in perspective.

But they aren't interested in him anymore

because he didn't find the tin box.


And history is about to slip their locks

abandoning them to their common folly, their governing clowns,

and the ancient earth of their timeless town.

 © Philip Knight 2018