William Yasinski

Commuting

 

I

I grind from home to work and back 
for ten years, slowly twigging onto 
underlying significances in 
geography. It begins at my old 
house near the Quaker Meeting, where they stay 
silent until their inner light moves them 
to speak; where they seek consensus before 
action (which can defer decisions ad

infinitum). They practice what should be 
radical democracy, but plays out 
so slowly that it becomes oligarchy 
shaped by the Philadelphia lawyers
who wear seersucker suits and white shoes 
from May all sweaty summer to Labor Day.

II

Southeast to the interstate and Chester,
a town that built ships during World War II,
noisy, prosperous, and mainly White. Now 
the whole town’s what we used to call a ghetto, 
where Whites seldom buy property though it’s
cheap and backs up against fancy suburbs.
Where Martin Luther King, Jr. went to 
seminary, honed his oratory, 

focused anger and learned how to use it.
Then south across the state line to Delaware
and the Mason-Dixon Line, south of which
slaves could once be held. Exit in Delaware, 
directly into horse country, and the
über-wealth of DuPont estates and museums.
 

III

This kind of American wealth is built
by war. DuPont most literally, maker 
of the munitions for all wars after 
the revolution. A key safety feature 
is that the powder plants are three-sided, 
open to the river, so when they blow, 
they blow out over the water instead of
igniting the buildings on either side. 

Where ammunition was produced for 
every war except for the atomic bombs
(since three-sidedness is to no avail 
when atoms split). The company I work 
for, still making money from war, but whose 
slogan is better things for better living.

IV

On to my office in Wilmington, where 
centred in the square, a statue of Caesar 
Rodney, who took a midnight gallop
to Philadelphia, slaveholder, hypocrite,
to be the signer who technically 
passed the Declaration. Then at the end of 
day, I’m out of town another way to make 
the big loop back home. Out past the estate

gardens and the furniture museum 
spun off by the barons to preserve their 
so-much-more-than-anyone-else. Past a stop 
on the Underground Railroad. Little to see 
but a place to hide and maybe be safe 
for a night or two on the long road north.

V

The route winds north through the Wyeth farm, 
home to three generations of artists, makers 
who perhaps without knowing it made art 
for captains of industry, as did the Pre-
Raphaelites, producing pastorals 
for office walls, relief from the smoky scapes 
of industrial revolution. And on 
past the Revolutionary battlefield 

of Brandywine Creek, a battle lost to
Washington learning his craft. Then back
across the Mason-Dixon onto Route 1, 
the old post road, the national road 
between Washington and Philadelphia,
link between cities from the beginning.

VI
 
The first roads to show how infrastructure 
supports growth, creates a base to build on. 
The kind of thing Hamilton knew from youth. 
Now it’s a lesser version of his vision
with malls, shopping centers, cinema complexes, 
looping turnpike interchanges, the lesser 
realization of the dream begging 
something better to spring from a Zeusian eye.

These traffic jams of lessons or alle-
gories or insights wear into my consciousness
over ten years, wear ruts in my soul that 
will never go away, ruts that show ten 
years are too many, that force me to agree 
it’s time for the vision to be rebuilt. 

Norwich

Norwich yokes Vermont to New Hampshire 

halfway up the Connecticut River, where deer 

and bobcat sometimes still drink—my birth town. 

 

The Revere bell at the Congregational Church 

still rings, as it did when I was baptized into its

Puritan plainness. Same place I eulogized parents 

 

and brother in later years. At four and five, 

we’d take the bus from the Norwich Inn to watch 

steam engines chug into White River Junction. 

 

Next to the Inn, Dan and Whit’s general store 

with one of everything shelved back along the dim 

basement aisles hammered like shims into the hill, 

 

and heated by wood from field-stacked cords.   

A vestigial fair jams the green each July. Oxen 

from farms outside town. Wooden rings you can

 

toss and win things. The populace is Dartmouth profs, 

escapee New Yorkers, Vermonters who service them. 

The ghostly colonials have big trees, modern colors 

 

instead of the original white, salmon, or maize. 

I plan runs so I can admire as many as possible 

and imagine again a WASP-y New England home.

 

The Christmas pageant anchors winter, the real season. 

We mob about town caroling, get turned away at the Inn, 

follow Mary’s burro to the stable, then cocoa, chat. 

 

In best memories, snow is falling. I haven’t often 

been back. Pretty certain it’s still the same, as long as

a proper successor to the old burro can be found.

tiffany jolowicz Monday on Michigan Island, Yesterday, the Day Before, Two Thousand Years