You can’t keep history – its darker secrets – 
from bursting out all over Main Street. 
The Hangman’s Tree saloon, built on the stump 
of the actual tree, drew locals and tourists 
like moths, the dummy cowboy George 
swinging from the façade like a dusty flame. 
The old Gold Rush mortise-and-tenon 
building at last declared unsound; boarded up. 
City managers said it had to go. Our town’s 
most famous landmark? A fixer-upper, 
it was retrofitted, spiffied up. Preserved, that 
ponderous front door swings open 
on its legendary groove, calligraphy of Time. 
But on the polished bar, sparkling 
spoons, bowls, and saucers instead of beer mugs. 
What will the raucous swinging ghosts 
do, in a Hangman’s Tree that’s family-friendly, 
serving ice cream. 
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the California Sierra, and serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018). She’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her latest book is Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016).