Another Highway 61, Cautiously Revisited

It is decommissioned, off-limits, outright verboten,
Yet is traversed nonetheless,
Its patrons a mix of the pruriently curious,
The thrill-seeker, the merely woebegone.
As they have time on their side,
The hub-bub of school buses and suburban commuters
No concern as they navigate the buckled and broken asphalt
(The conflagration underneath changing the topography
Daily, sometimes even hourly)
They will stop to paint some phrase, some bon mot
On this roadway-cum-canvas:
Mostly the narcissistic monologue we bray at the universe,
The assertion that we were here, are here,
And (though it is plaintive yet unspoken) that we always may be,
Augmented with light hearted double entendres
And grim, hectoring Biblical quotations,
While not far away, the re-directed two lanes of blacktop
Carry onward, indifferently proceeding on its way
Through these stolidly scruffy old anthracite towns,
Their landscapes and the ground beneath them
Quiet as the sepulcher, the vagaries of their fates above the sod,
Stalking them impassively yet implacably.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: At one time, Pennsylvania Highway 61 ran through Centralia, a town where property values are not what they once were.

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4 thoughts on “Another Highway 61, Cautiously Revisited

  1. Love the images that you created in this poem. Have you traveled 61 recently? The Judge (and my late father, Hugh) is a sucker for the “road less traveled.” In my younger years, I was quite game to venture off the main drag and meander on some roads that ultimately ended and then became narrower and narrower until only grass and dirt clods made up the road way. Those were the days when we did not care about cell phone coverage, where should we run out of gas or suffer a flat tire, we viewed such misfortunes as opportunities for adventure.

    1. The whole North-Central tier of the Keystone State can be a bit depressing at times, and there are plenty of spots where there still isn’t much in the line of cell-phone coverage.

  2. that coal mine fire in centralia as discovered while watching the movie ‘the town that was’ is one of the ultimate reminders to me that the tide is coming, maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow, snuffed out.

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