For several years now I’ve wondered in a slow-burning ache if I’ll ever be able to chronicle what it’s like to live in a small town in the middle of Michigan that’s struggling to hang on, if I can somehow take the trains passing through night after night, offering up their long, drawn-out wails, and make of them, or of the water tower standing above abandoned oil fields or the rickety porches on the south side of town, a kind of sense, if only to myself, in order to say this is what it’s like here, without sanctimony or censure or the least trace of sentimentality.

It’s very important, perhaps even critical, to say something about a town like Alma, to arrive at some understanding of it, even if it’s partial and imperfect, to tug on the sleeve of the cosmos and inquire after this particular tiny corner of its staggering debris field and set forth an accurate portrait about the place where I have lived for almost eight years now. How I came to be here isn’t that important, only the fact that enough time has passed for the spirit of this place to gradually fill me up so that I must appear like someone afflicted with bouts of inexplicable sighing, sudden bursts of exhalation that suggest resignation or ennui but which are just a way to maintain stability in the midst of the town’s continuous outpouring of moon vibes.

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