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U.S. Route 20

Past Kinderhook, where she swam as a child,
shadowed now and overhung with branches,
so that it is invisible from the road,
ahead of you, an August cloudscape is

massing in ramparts over Lebanon Valley
and the mountain Shakers called “the back side of
this world, connecting with eternity.”
But they are long gone, hands, hearts, work, and love,

and there is no one at the Valley Rest Motel.
William J. Culhane Used Cars has a Subaru
you ought to look at, but you never will,
and there’s a tractor-trailer rig for sale too,

high windshield dazzling, too bright to bear,
wide wings to lift and carry you away
with a full plate of ICC tags (but to where?)
on roads bordered by Queen Anne’s lace and chicory

and, at the foot of a billboard, loosestrife.
Tobacco, teen pregnancy, drunk driving,
an alpine water slide, I BEAT MY WIFE…
AT BACKGAMMON. If you reach Ward Hatch Plumbing,

you’ve gone too far. For did you not, just as
your heart began to drag with the familiar
torn love for everything you know will pass,
see, on your right, a field of purple heather

empty and radiant in the afternoon,
and on your left, in plain caps without irony
outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception,
the legend MY WORDS WILL NOT PASS AWAY?

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