by Julene Waffle
From the outskirts of the city,
before the street lights and electric billboards
stop The Milky Way at street level,
cell phone and radio towers
shimmer, like the Seven Dwarfs’ mine,
illumined by sweat and hard work,
all rubies and diamonds, stark against
the cold night sky.
Darkness has settled in and covers the factory grays
of old shoe mills and hard lives lived
and the dust and dirt and grime of everyday life.
It isn’t The City that Never Sleeps or Beantown
or Vegas with its flashing lights or all-night traffic,
but it’s enough to know something bigger
exists, something else lives
outside the split-rail fences of my small town.
Racing by on the curved and lonely Interstate,
house lights and street lights blink against the night;
the unprotesting city is swallowed
by the rolling hills and trees and darkness
and escaping miles of road
accumulating in my rear view mirror.
It summons me back, but
never having stopped—my invitation lost in the mail—
it becomes a simple reminder on the map
that more than hay fields and orchards line the road.
PHOTO: Downtown Binghamton, New York, at night by Laura Roth, used by permission.
NOTE: Binghamton is located in New York’s hilly Southern Tier region near the Pennsylvania border, in a bowl-shaped valley at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers. The city was named after William Bingham, a wealthy businessman from Philadelphia who bought 10,000 acres of land in the area during 1786. The Chenango Canal, completed in 1837, connected Binghamton to the Erie Canal, which led to the development of the area, including the completion of the Erie Railroad between Binghamton and New York City in 1849. From the days of the railroad, Binghamton was a transportation crossroads and a manufacturing center, and has been known at different times for the production of cigars, shoes, and computers. IBM was founded nearby, and the flight simulator was invented in the city, leading to a notable concentration of electronics- and defense-oriented firms.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired on the way home from my last graduate class at Binghamton University. It was the biggest city within an hour’s travel of my home. I had the feeling that I would not be back for a long while. I was not wrong.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julene Waffle is a teacher in a rural New York State public school, a business owner, a wife, a mother of three boys, and writer. She has degrees from Hartwick College and Binghamton University. Her work has appeared in The Daily Star, The English Journal, The English Record, River, Blood, and Corn: Literary Journal, A Community of Voices, plus anthologies of poetry entitled Planet in Crisis (FootHills Publishing, 2020) and Seeing Things: Anthology of Poetry (Woodland Arts Editions, 2020), and a chapbook So I Will Remember (Woodland Arts Editions, 2020). She finds inspiration in nature and her family, which includes her dogs. Visit her at wafflepoetry.com and on Twitter @JuleneWaffle.