THE CHAMPFLEURS

It was something you knew if you lived in the town.
At a certain age you knew about the Champfleurs.
Children didn’t know, and they didn’t ask about Mr. Champfleur
when they saw him, the thin silent man in the cold winter light,
stopping his wagon in town. When he called at the post office,
the rare letter was from Canada, accounting for his accent.

No one took the long dirt drive from the back road
that led to their farm. The tax assessor described it once,
the small house kept up, barely, shaded by pines
growing back on the land. Crops they raised were just for them.
He earned his money from other farmers in the spring
and at harvest, and never spoke during the work.

No one saw Mrs. Champfleur: she never came to town,
not even for church, and she was buried on the farm.
No one knew who brought the news home or even if
it was real news and not a rumor, but everyone learned it:
one night you heard the story. A fire was warm in the stove,
the lamp fluttered, casting shadows around the room

where people talked, and you learned that someone,
a traveling salesman it had to have been, visited a town
far up in Quebec, and heard about a brother and sister
who left by wagon one night, leaving their baby
to be raised by an aunt, then changed their names and settled
on an overgrown farm on the loneliest road of our town.

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