Pine Hill

FROM Pine Hill where we used to go
To see the valley spread below
In factory stacks and river bend
With fog or harbor at the end
Or watch for ships across the bay
At vision’s end of a clear day —
Still far across the sprawling town
I see to where the earth turns down
And think almost — I see so far —
I see where all our past years are.
We played Relieve-O on the rocks
Or sat to hear the bank tower clocks
Ring up the hour at six per cent
Across the bonded firmament.
Or loving height we reached to catch
A pine-top by our longest stretch
Out from the edge of rock, where town
Was blocks and rubble scattered down,
Patterned white and pigmy-size,
Against the day that filled our eyes.
And we were there to play or ponder,
Relieve-O or the rock height’s wonder.
Above the spectacle of cash:
The house that smelled of bootleg mash,
The meadow where steam shovels grazed
Until the final knoll was razed
To suburb and new mortgages, the pike
That crackled underneath a bike
And lost its surface every storm
To keep the mayor and counsel warm —
We learned. And taut and insolent,
Plunder was our first intent.
Yet rock and pine survived, and we,
Wish-surviving, scattered free
Beyond glad-handing counselors,
The three knocks at the peephole doors,
The brown cigar, the spittled lip,
Bribes and liquor on the hip,
And the trained voices suave to cry
Halos in the public eye.
And awkward, grave, above the town
We spoke our wish, and down and down
Bank towers, headquarters, city hall,
Drew their histories to a fall.
And far across the blur of bay
We cleaned our sight at the edge of day.