These interconnected streets were paved between the wars,
when cars were as large as some countries’ homes.
Making repairs for sixty odd years, we have added asphalt layers
and decreased the size of our cars by half,
so that now we’re soaring high, like elevated creatures.
But still there are primitive places, mostly near the gutters,
where dangerous potholes offer a rare, invaluable view
of the rough stone roads our grandparents knew.
Walking on Saturday to the hardware store for tools,
and to the post office for stamps, and to the grocery for food,
I pause a while to meditate on the steep granite curb.
Kneeling on one knee as if to tie my shoe,
then on both as if to search for a dropped copper coin,
I look into the pothole like a child at a wishing well.
Each bared granite stone at the bottom of the hole,
rounded at the corners, looks like a mound of something soft.
Each is a splash of dark flecks and streaks on gray.
Each is still fresh from an ancient New England volcano.
Now my mind’s resourceful and open, like a mAGNIfying glass.
Now my nose evokes the horse odors that must have been
still lingering in the air when the exhaust fumes came,
and my tongue rehearses the price of beans, casually discussed
with the grocery store’s thin, white-haired clerk.
Drawing a penny from my pocket to toss into the hole,
I see myself with friends in front of a barber shop wearing
black elastic suspenders that go with my black bow tie.
I hear myself speaking with gentle, glib authority
on domestic affairs; can almost feel in my hands
the morning paper of a day in 1922, and the fashionable desire
to cover everything old up with something entirely new.
Scott Ruescher’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, The Ohio Review, and The Nation. His pamphlet Lake Hope is available from Porch Publications. (1983)