A Road in Chester

THAT hill road had been a proud road.
It had gone straight up to get away from the village quickly.
It had n’t made any devious easy turnings
To get to the higher ground.
It stopped just once so you could look back at what you’d done
And get your breath to finish what you’d started.
Having got the hard part over all at once
It took its way more leisurely along the ridge.
Almost level as Vermont roads go,
It kept to the foothills
Which brace the mountains against the sky.
Then it was a cross-state road.
On it rocking stagecoaches used to go
With an extra team to get them past that first hard grade.
Now its days are over.
The village grew up in the valley
And the road followed the winding stream.
Grass grew between the ruts of the hill road.
A few old settlers who’d worked the road when they were young
Made them keep it open.
Then their sons made roads straight down from their farms
Sooner to meet the valley road that went to town.
Now, still a proud road, it climbs the hill
With enough houses near the village to keep it.
Beyond the last house it fades into the woods.
Bush-grown cellar holes and dying apple trees
Pay no taxes to keep up a road.
You can follow it now on foot perhaps
But at times you’ll have to look toward the sky
To be sure you’re on it.
Even the stone walls which marked the farms
Have been taken by the encroaching forest.
Here and there you ’ll find signs of a clearing
Where a few gray-barked patriarchal maples
Remember where the farmhouse stood.
If you look carefully you may find the two tracks
Where the iron-shod wheels packed the rocks and soil
Too hard even for seedlings to find a root-hold.
It takes years on years of rotting leaves
To wipe out a proud hill road.
WALTER HARD