Upcountry Detour

By Sydney Lea

An old man sluggishly waves a hand.
He looks spellbound, as if by an apparition:
A stranger, me, in a place few visit.
I’m sidetracked into my own odd spell—
Both sadness at bleakness and fascination.
There’s a sign in another dooryard, bizarre:
Atrini, World’s Finest Files.


A softball arcs on the blistered common,
A father pitching, a son at bat.
One newer car, a Buick, glitters
Like gemstone in front of a postage-stamp store.
Back lots full of witch-grass show unwheeled pickups
Dead amid whips of lilac and sumac.
I drive out of town past further signs:

BECKYS TRUCKERS HEAVEN ONE MILE
COME IN AND HAVE A “CUP” WITH BECK
BECKYS CLOSED FOR RENOVATION
Its windows, boarded over with wanes,
In brush beside it, a bedspring, a dryer.
I notice a black cat eyeing a bird
On its roof, too high for him to consider


Sydney Lea is a former Pulitzer finalist and winner of the Poets’ Prize, served as
founding editor of New England Review, and was previously Vermont’s Poet
Laureate. He is the author of 23 books—the latest a collection of essays,
Seen from All Sides: Lyric and Everyday Life. In 2021, he was presented with
his home state of Vermont’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

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