The New Old New England Halloween Blues
by Dave Robinson
Their quiet root hairs floss the rocky soil,
these paper birches slouching in brownfield sun.
Industrial dyes reduce to dregs of lead
and mercury to be swept up to sway
in pent-up buds. An unofficial flag
of urban areas—the shredded, snagged
plastic bag—crackles low in the yellow shade.
In the highest limbs, jostling bright like quick-
silver, a half-deflated balloon bouquet.
In the lowest drains, nestled like deaf and dumb
kits, used needles hole up till the first false thaw.
Young drunks smeared pumpkins across the cobbles last night
and the whole scene has the look of a rubbish orchard.
But there are no hay rides, corn mazes or “Pick-
Your-Own…” enticements in sight.
I point my car
north to the Green Mountains. But gold and red,
orange and bronze are smashed brown paste on the road’s
slim shoulder. Two strange, too-tropical patterns tore peak
foliage to wet shreds in mid-month rainstorms.
October yields a bumper crop where roadkill’s
strewn among streaks—steel-belteds melted down
to veer off then burn the median’s rocksalt weeds.
(Roadkill and baseball have long been our two true
National Pastimes.) The scorched and dead are swept
up to sway our minds toward rush hours and commutes
as safe austerities of daily life.
Vermont’s highways are edged with blood-stained sands,
alluvial plastics and autumn’s last wild blooms—
catching me off-guard!
But traffic coagulates
to parade pace, and scattered blue flowers
are just bunched-up latex gloves—stained brown and dropped
in wilting goldenrod by EMT’s.
Pine trunks, guardrails or blasted granite cliffs
welcome the unwitting multitudes in huddled
masses of metal, bone, glass, leather and flesh.
Yet we smug Yankees wear the guise of the herd:
the mask of the “Oblivious Rubbernecks.”