TOWN GREEN: SOUTH ROYALTON
How long has it been since I lazed on a town green?
A couple of square acres set with maple and crabapple.
(Sprayed, mulched, blooming impossibly early.)
Two gazebos, for bandstand and romance.
(Amo, amas. Gazebo, gazebae?)
Starched white church with a black clock-face.
(The time is what unearthly hour?)
Across the green, a train station where business begins.
(End of the line)
Before me, a cottage row; behind, a row of eateries.
(Who cooks in a chichi town?)
On its grass surface, not a weed or divot.
(No sliding tackles, scraped knees?)
From the highway, South Royalton seems tucked in timelessness
(a steeple crucifix, a gambrel barn’s weathervane)
like a storybook town one sees from a passing car, wishing
(fairytales were true)
fairytales were true, wondering how one gets there
from here. Forty years ago, I’d have lain
(“loafed and invited my soul”)
here on a summer’s day, a college kid astride the season
(riding it, riding it)
tethered to greenness and leisure. Forty years ago,
o lord, in whose crossed steeple I do not believe, in whose name I cannot
claim hope or victory. Forty years, and my body still yearns
(for the idea of greenness)
Neil Shepard’s most recent books include a full volume of poems, (T)ravel/Un(t)ravel (Mid-List Press, 2011), and an offbeat chapbook, Vermont Exit Ramps (Big Table Publishing, 2012) in which this poem appears. His new book, Hominid Up, is due in 2014 by Salmon Poetry Press (Ireland). The author of three previous books of poetry, Shepard founded the Writing Program at the Vermont Studio Center, and he taught for several decades in the BFA Creative Writing Program at Johnson State College in Vermont until his retirement in 2009. He also founded the literary magazine Green Mountains Review a quarter-century ago, and he is currently its Senior Editor. He presently lives in New York City and teaches poetry workshops at The Poets House and in the low-residency MFA writing program at Wilkes University (PA). Outside of the literary realm, Neil is a founding member of the jazz-poetry group POJAZZ.