by Eve Lyons
Trying to Leave Vermont After Hurricane Irene, 2011
I know these winding back roads of Vermont
How Route 30 always feels interminable
If we haven’t reached our destination
on the other side of the Green Mountains,
and yet it feels luxurious and lush
when we have no where we’re trying to be,
when we leave at the end of the weekend.
I know these snaking back roads of Vermont,
route 9 to Bennington, little longer
but you can stop for lunch at the Blue Benn.
I know these back roads and these back rivers,
The Battenkill River which seems so quaint
in downtown Manchester, a placid stream
in Arlington, a river in Winhall
keeps us company along route 30.
These rivers and roads are my long lost friends.
Every summer since elementary
school I’ve stayed in Arlington, Manchester,
Peru, Winhall, Londonderry, Dorset,
Landgrove, Jamaica. They sound exotic
all thirty miles from one another
all beautiful in their own way, cousins
all connected by water and mountain.
I know these twisty back roads of Vermont.
Three days ago I hiked up Lye Mountain
saw the tallest waterfall in Vermont,
sometimes just a trickle but on that day
big enough to leave dozens of mushrooms.
I knew these roads so well, until nature
took them away. Rivers rose from creek beds,
sloshed and ripped out chunks of highway 7,
route 30, route 9, and more. Washed away
pieces of asphalt, maple and birch trees,
people’s cars, a few homes. We were lucky –
we couldn’t leave but had place to stay,
we got an extra day of vacation.
I know all these roads and rivers so well,
then nature took them and reminded me
I don’t really know anything at all.
Rules for Riding the Subway
. Always try to pee before getting on the train.
You never know when a “track problem”
(Code for someone jumped or fell)
or ice on the tracks
will keep you stuck underground.
Move out of the way so others can get off
It’s basic oppression theory, really
Give up privilege so the less fortunate can get on
Not doing so will immediately mark you:
You don’t belong here.
When the childlike, big black man tells you
“you’re so beautiful”
smile and tell him thank you.
There’s no reason to fear.
His gentle soft voice is all you need to know.
Whatever else you do, don’t make eye contact
Stare at your phone,
the guy with five shopping bags of shoes,
the reflection of yourself in the dark window.
If you don’t someone might talk to you.
In Porter Square and DuPont Circle, don’t look down.
Watch your feet or stare straight ahead
Just like hiking Starvation Creek in the Columbia Gorge
You probably won’t fall to your death
But you never know.
Inevitably, whatever train you take
Will become the slow train.
Accept this, and enjoy the forty-five minutes
You have to read or listen to a podcast.
You don’t have any place more important to be.
Recalculating My Relationship with Technology
My fitness tracker yells at me to MOVE!
If I sit still for more than thirty minutes
Shut up, I want to say, I’m meeting with a client
My GPS argues with me
If I turn to avoid Harvard Square,
she doesn’t know the traffic is always bad there
If I run for thirty minutes or do yoga for an hour
I’m disappointed if my fitness tracker dies
It’s like it didn’t count.
My phone guesses
“maybe Jon” when a student texts me
It’s Jon, can we talk about my final paper?
My cloud is storing everyone I talk to.
I search for lilacs on Google
and ads for florists buying plants wholesale
start popping up.
My six year old was so excited to get his own tracker
He doesn’t need a one,
he never stops moving.
But now I worry whether he gets enough sleep
My fitness tracker also calculates my stress reactions
How much my heart can take, how much is enough.
But what I find is that it makes me more stressed
We created this problem
We’re stuck with it. We’ve sold our souls in the form of personal data
We’re addicted to having our machines track us,
tell us where to go,
how many steps we walked
how many calories we burned,
how many hours we slept
how hard we work,
how long it might be
until we die.