Poems by Aileen Bassis

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Turnpike Pastorale

by Aileen Bassis

From Canary Winter 2015-16

Aileen lives in Jersey City on the west side of New York Bay, a river estuary where sea gulls perch in the supermarket parking lot, and a forest grows on an abandoned railroad embankment.

East, the highway loops, divides
traffic into a fitful stream
of blinking brake lights,

that scatter randomly
over ramps, onto a cloverleaf, profuse
as mayflies.

Across a western spur,
smokestacks dimly frame
a smear of trucks,

where a swamp fills with wind
moving thickened water
past switch grass and cattails.

Southward, a litter of warehouses
and factories roil. The highway
widens with lanes and north

tosses a luckless handful
of once promising
cities, crowned with exhaust

clouds edged green
as oil film floating

on New York Bay.

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