Having no history of its own (though the original residents,
Most of whom had backed the wrong redcoat-clad horse,
Would opine otherwise), the purveyors and surveyors
Of the huge Revolutionary War tracts were kind enough
To appropriate some from other times and other places,
So there was Utica and Rome and Syracuse,
And, when the ancients were exhausted,
Madrid, Canton, and Antwerp came into being,
Bovine-populated irritants in the highway bearing little resemblance
To their distinguished ancestors.
I am driving through this land of usurped antiquity,
Cleaning up some flotsam and jetsam of my own personal history,
Drinking coffee of the black, hundred-mile variety
At Eddie’s Paramount Diner, Fifties’ faux-chromed and turquoise-tiled
In such a way that you expect Skinny Elvis to settle his non-sequined behind
Onto the stool next to you. The waitress, professionally playful
And of indeterminate age, is, in the course of being nominally flirtatious,
Chattering about the better times when the air base up the road a piece
Was not a mostly deserted concrete desert,
The barrenness interrupted here and there by the odd start-up tech company
Built on undependable grant funding and inexhaustible optimism.
You’d think having the military ‘round would make us repression proof,
She clucks as she refills my cup, But it’s kinda like they used to say
About military wives—you know, the hole in the donut;
Once the donut’s gone, there’s no more hole,
And she laughs as she relates how the base hosted
The thirtieth-anniversary Woodstock concert,
Out with the crew-cuts, in with the gray ponytails.
Let me tell you, the airmen were much better tippers.
(Thus prompted, I toss an extra bill on the counter.)
Life’s funny, I say as I settle up at the register and throw on my coat,
And she nods, Mebbe so, though I wish it was a bit more
Of the ha-ha kind.
Sufficiently caffeinated, I guide back the car back onto Turin Street,
Settling in for the drive north, saying a silent prayer
That the winds don’t kick in from off the lake
And make the roads an impassible madness of white,
As I head to my final destination, a small town
Whose namesake was home to a castle
Where a new generation of three wise men
Built us a shiny new cold-war world.