Friday, May 25, 2018


by Kevin Swanwick


Seated between two hills
   north & south
sleeping at appropriate times –
   mostly free 
   from its wetland past –

capturing dew points along 
North Church Street
   on stubborn crabgrass
urgently marking the jagged joining
of ancient slate slabs
all strangely formed
   in strakes
processing to welcome travelers at 
   its ambiguous center.

We moved with attentiveness
across those wedged stones,
shifting over epochs
   crooked & precarious, 
markers for the habitual
stroller & child handlebar-gripper
whose body memory could marshal 
   phantom steps & pulsed clenches
striding or riding safely to church, 
the meat market or toy store.

But visitors beware.

Peopled early by workmen
cleaning catch basins before newly
car-driving villagers crisscrossed the
madly formed square;
   converging streets
   wrapping buildings closely
across from the sunken park of green
that softens the stark facade of steepled
   limestone history.

Harriman Square,
   a magical singularity
bereft of organizing traffic lights
& marked by its solid white bullseye;
   an unreachable point but
forming the statuary base for our
beloved sentry Chief Walker, 
   erect, white-gloved & spit-shined
   half-smiling, arms & hands
slicing the air
   with mechanical precision
bright eyed; his peppered police whistle
   bringing pitched order to chaos
while his august form draws
   every housewife's gaze.


Outsized & punching upward,
holding a county seat, posing questions
about appearances & the oddness of
Rio Grande creek channeled & directed
out of sight in subterranean solitude 
   a sluice
quietly moving under our feet 
but peek-a-booing at grade
   near the end of Canal Street
where young boys who made plans 
to build a light raft & pilot through 
   its dark tunnel
were at last repelled by the stench of sewage
from the leaky history of busy pipes; 
hidden, rusting capillaries
   offering quiet witness
to organic hushed humanness
elderly & unattended, discharging slop
while above ground tattooed
   seasonal horsemen chattered 
   on the corner of Main
   & monied gents passed by,
   acting as if no one were there.

Courtesy ruled the dissimilar habitués
flinging curiosity aside with directed attention –
   horse grooms at their bars, 
dairy farmers at the hardware store –
   no time to stop & eat,
lawyers & bankers at Howell’s Luncheonette,
policemen strolling past the Occidental Hotel 
silently keeping order while scheduled train stops
announced themselves & cars halted
for the arm-folding railroad signal;
an opportunity for happenstance & short

The indifferent tracks formed rhythm & geometry
   & stretching along Green Street,
   home to black villagers,
connected two sides of town 
hosting both border & exchange 
   for melanin mixing
   or tentative greetings;
a coupling geography offering 
glimpses forward & from its
   proud purlieu
the mirth of gentleman John Bruen, 
black & brilliant, The Ole Hasher
who knew those tracks –
   man of prose & wisdom, 
dapper, handsome, pen in pocket 
offering chat as he gathered thoughts
   for the next newspaper scribbles,

local & universal, our brass tacks 
   village sage.


Revenants loiter
at this lowland crossroad 
   pressing immortality
where the French Canadian horse groom
smiled at the gum-snapping waitress
& others, stomach-ulcered & drunken,
stumbled across Greenwich Avenue
   to flophouse quarters,
fugacious & filled with wraiths from
   knife-fight pasts,
   murmuring unknown entreaties.

Through history-filled senses
listeners might hear,
between the metered jolts of 
   that oversized diaphone
   fire horn, 
youngsters arguing about trotters & pacers
and who is held champ – 
knee-raising Greyhound or 
well-hobbled Dan Patch, imagining 
   a showdown of equine gods.

What if Stanley Dancer
could have driven old Greyhound too?”
Dispassionate doppelgängers at work,
evenly matched & giving open track 
to trotting & pacing kings,
letting the aged, pounded clay decide.

And across town a knowing horseman’s ear
   could discern
the dissonant rhythms of 
left-side hoofs to right-side hoofs
changing forward position & pelting the track
against the syncopated & symmetrical
alternations of an old grey stud.

What if & what about;
so full of remnant recesses
in its ghostly décor, is Goshen. 


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Kevin Swanwick  works in the software technology industry and resides in the Hudson Valley of New York with his wife Kathy, two daughters and their dog Dante. Kevin has returned to poetry after a long separation. His published short fiction and essays can be found at The Strange Recital podcast and Elephant Journal. 
The poem Goshen arises from the firsthand experience of a 12-year old horse groom’s assistant at the Historic Track of harness racing in Goshen, NY and the interpretive memory of a middle-aged man. Their reunions occur in poetry.

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