The Bell Tower by Taylor Graham


Homely, unpretentious, local color –

the old Gold Rush tower is symbol of our
town. It boosts the tourist trade,
standing tall, four-square with one toe
in the westbound lane. Almost
as famous as the noosed effigy that hangs
from an old façade a little farther west.
Both part of the town’s history:
the hanged man a reminder
of what happened when lynching
wasn’t on the judge’s docket;
the fire-alarm bell, a warning that towns
are flammable. Main Street burned
three times in one year.
Three, like the girls lured away
from the tower – now a high school
meeting-place; all three girls found
murdered in the forest. And still, the bell
tower is voice and heart of our town,
a rendezvous everybody knows; a stage
for civic celebrations. Tonight,
let’s read our poems under its hanging
bell, for those murdered girls;
for the past no bronze bell can call back.

Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada, and serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018). She’s included in the anthology Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present(Santa Clara University). Her latest book is Uplift (
El Dorado Poetry page on Facebook for news of local poetry events etc:


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