I wrote this prose sketch in the early 1980s when I was living on Sixth Avenue in Pawtucketville and regularly going to Shaw’s Farm in Dracut to buy fresh milk, ice cream, and other items. Although my first home was on Orleans Street in Centralville, when I was very young my parents bought a small ranch-style house at the end of Hildreth Street in Dracut not far from Shaw’s on New Boston Road. This piece fits with the season.—PM
All seems right on this summer evening—the sky streaked blue and rose. Easy air draws me out back to see the cows. Bothered by flies, a black calf rubs its head against a fence rail. Odors of grass, feed, and animals mix into one healthy country smell. Up the hill behind the barn a trail leads to a cemetery with many illegible stones, others with chiseled verse, and a few that say, “Gone Home.” A dozen cars are notched in around the farm store on New Boston Road. Here, not far from the city beat, I stand in the dirt and sense the natural loop, the closed circuit that runs from rain to bread, from clover to cheese. This is the Earth’s milk. This is the town feeding itself, the people feeding the people. This is the curve of the world. Town is a rounded word, and world, from the Old English, meaning enclosed place, homestead, village. City is from the Latin for state and citizen—it’s linear, laws, an idea. In a few months the farmer will set out thousands of pumpkins for adoption by people who will place them on front steps in descending order, the largest for the head of the household, smallest for the baby or cat. Pint-sized pumpkins will be given to third grade teachers. Pies will feature the orange pulp. Then vines will be plowed under, Halloween torn from the calendar. And I’ll step out of the store in the early darkness, holding a milk bottle by the neck in each hand like cold white lanterns.
—Paul Marion (c) 1984, 2006, from “What Is the City?”