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Rockland - The New Yorker

Poems

May 19, 2014 Issue

Rockland

By John Freeman

I saw it being built, flat as a Frisbee in the bowl of those foothills, trees disappearing month after month, replaced by smooth roads, empty schools, pork-chop lots, and cul-de-sacs spotted with unfinished houses, the noise walls curving the roadway into one long cement smile.

We used to drive up there in our parents’ cars—past the starter castles—to the daisy-wheel junctions with their stoplights sheathed in muslin like some beheaded prisoner, the air so high and tight and piney you could hear construction hammering from miles away.

It was a ghost town but for that sound. We’d sit in the unfinished high-school stadium, at the lip of what would become the bleachers, the half- built Cineplex in the distance like a prison, and listen to nothing turning to something, waiting for the sky to turn purple and the traffic to hush.

Then, curfew looming, we’d race back across the newly edgeless city, our radios turned up to drown our pounding hearts, tires screeching on the silky arterials. We felt it would never end. The empty sky, the city that didn’t matter. We held our breaths when we clicked off the headlamps and ran through stoplights.

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