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I follow the clean-edged macadam north
To catch the train. The maples lining both
Sides hang with leaves turned soft but brilliant reds,
Oranges, and umbers that will make their beds
Soon in the unmown grass that lines my street,
And crumble at the weight of passing feet.
The people who just moved in three doors down
Have ringed their banisters in black and brown
And hung a skeletal child from a swing,
Its eyeless stare a dark and menacing
Reminder to pray for the dead and of those
Horrors the coming darkness may disclose.
We haven’t met the tenants yet, and don’t
Want to. A glance into their yard has sown
Nightmares already in my children’s sleep,
Shaking them teared and screaming from its deep.
We’ve heard them crush their beer cans, out to smoke
Late at night, and guffaw at some crude joke.
A few doors farther on, the lawn is spiked
With signs for candidates I’ve long disliked.
Just seeing their names induces in me fear
Less supernatural but much more near
At hand than those that haunt the children’s dreams.
But then, I see that new foundations, beams
Of smooth pine pitched high in the sun, where two
New homes are rising, promise something new;
And hear St. Monica’s bronze bells in her tower
Govern our hillside as they toll the hour,
Chastening us that though our time seem dire,
Much has endured through beating rains and fire,
And good can still be made in this dark season.
I read a book last week that says our reason
No longer sees the world as from God’s eyes;
Where the ancient mind saw signs, ours now denies
To it all but the most material meaning.
I’m not so sure. It seems that thoughts are leaning
Up against every fence post, and the earth,
Stared at, stares back and quietly brings to birth
Between us words, morals, and promises
Which we might overlook but can’t dismiss.
I worry, as a father, that the year
Ahead will bear out omens all too clear
Such that my children, grown, will only know
The clash of good and evil’s fiery glow.
I stop to let the speeding traffic pass.
The gutter’s tiled with tins and broken glass.
Across the way, the Veteran’s Memorial
With polished granite, stirring flags, and aureole
Of silver guards the entrance to the station.
Its plaque says, These gave their lives for our nation.
I wait, clutching my ticket in my hand,
For what the rough voiced future will demand.

—James Matthew Wilson