— for Claudia Emerson
It held off for months the locals said,
as we start down the historic Inn’s
icy steps, the same steps the bartender told us
George Washington descended
after taking lodging there for a night—as he
sailed up the Hudson, recruiting soldiers,
a signed letter of gratitude now framed,
on a hallway’s floral wallpaper,
the stairs, narrow and arduous, creaking
as arthritic joints, the tinny wings
of mourning doves, audible in the muscled oak.
We climb into the back seat of the taxi,
the cabbie brushing off scabs of ice,
meter ticking, no early breakfasters, no passersby,
the dry cleaners, tattoo parlor, all deserted.
We drive down Main Street,
tires swerving to avert black ice
past the crumbling bricks of the State House,
and the dilapidated railroad tracks.
Shops, foreclosed, a corner bakery, nailed-up.
The obsolete jail and stockade
converted into tourist museums.
Oh world, oh snow, how it pauses here
at the ledge of dawn, listless, in silence,
snowflakes caught in a halo of light’s glare
piling up on dumpsters, a chicken coop,
a white eiderdown coverlet spread out
upon the fields as if trying to warm the frigid cold,
as we sit back, driven blindly into a fugue,
into a sharp curve on the exit ramp, toward the airport
and we can make out albino spider-birches
stretched out for miles,
snow sloping and rising, under deep revision,
white-washing the time-weathered barns
and a graveyard set within a meadow,
once a patriot’s battleground,
snow covering the toppled headstones,
veiled and nameless now,
stony angels flocking to protect the tombs,