Stephen Burt


Inland, the antique milemarkers spread
themselves out into twentieth-century lanes,

jammed up this afternoon, though built for speed—
sun-harmed, old news, old toys, they bury the lead

of Prudence Crandall's schoolroom heritage,
her kettle of cider, her wishes traced by hand.

We miss her now. We parcel out her land.
Town halls fade into greenery like spies.

New London's keeping Groton in its sights;
its drawbridge swings, a military career.

New Haven is old scores and old concrete,
old freeways where the Great Migration stalled;

the Sound turns agate, band by frozen band.
By Haddam, there are only Linens-n-Things

and other things, great mounds, whole civilizations
still glowing in faint spits along Route Nine...

I miss the Great Society with its sense
that we could redraw maps that ailed us, gone

in a mist of real estate and demonstrations,
three or four angry years before I was born.



Its mission is not to reveal any one fact or facet, but simply to keep the investigation going, line by line, until some oblong or oblate gets worn enough to take what we recognize as its shape. There are fleshes within each flesh, a core in each core.

Does the peeler know, as it exercises the powers inherent in its metal edge, how with just a little more push or perspicuity it could simply continue, strip after strip, making spirals around a single and continuously diminishing rind or skin, until the entirety of an object lies discarded in the sink, like an abstract proposition disproved? The peeler continues, so easily held...so much we attribute, wrongly, to one human hand.



On OXO: I am going to ask Jessie, from whom I learned what an OXO vegetable peeler was and why OXO products are distinctive, before sending you a note on the poem's germination; if you don't receive such a note later, please run this sentence, including this clause, as that note.