The Perils of Portage, 1990*
I sleep uneasily upon a thoroughfare of skeletons
where Portage grows beyond the downtown's
narrow gage into a Nascar avenue. I lie along
an open six-block light-free speedway spiking
north to Michigan, oversewn in spruce and poplar,
no defense against the midnight catapult attack.
On weekend nights these flats attract Andretti
wannabes pumping flaming tail pipes underneath
their decibels. Half a dozen mash-ups have
desertified the roadscape, scraped the promenade
into arboreal disaster, and sounded the alarm
it's time to exit to the country.
Forget the minor logging that didn't make
the headlines and listen to this catalog
of unpremeditated takings. Three years ago
a Bettenhausen harvested three sapling birches
with his Cheve's grill. His 'night-blind' plea
did not move the widow who had spaced them
frost-like springs ago, as she stared the smoking
stumps, razored rolling sixty-five at least.
Next June an after-graduation run unearthed
my neighbor's only Christmas evergreen. The sergeant
surmised the bumpers dive-bombed from the curb
powered when the front tires blew. The teen-age
Gordon shed no insight either, and Jack hasn't strung
an outdoor yule string since.
Last June a drunken maniac trashed my honeysuckle
hedge with a stolen Lincoln Continental. The twisted
remnants lost their spines forever, with elbows where
their canopies should be. Every summer Saturday
assumptions of ineptitude from jogging passers-by
pained and shamed my hapless clippered hands.
Then this December, at three AM an airy
Luyendyk-alike took out two-score feet
of the white ranch fence we painted twice
last fall. He claimed he 'drove slow but the curve
was slick.' The silver maple's bleeding gash
and two Caddy hubcaps strewn around
the doorstep made me dubious.
I gave up the greenhouse railing. It became
too intense to build an empty nest in town.
We removed to New Carlisle where roads are rare
and groves are thick and trees breathe freely
without fear of Rutherfords with Indy fever.
Jerome L. McElroy
*The Poet’s Art 44 (December 2011): 54-55.