December, 200-, New York State, Hudson River Valley

Long past midnight,
You stop your Harley
And reach behind a billboard
Loudly screaming
"Coming Soon:
Luxury Condominiums!"
To break the padlock
On the rusty
Iron gate it hides
Which moans shut behind you
In the winter silence.

Up the ruined
Graceful curving
Drive you ride
Through tangles
Of winter trees
The mansion still as you recall-
A misplaced folly
Of Southern splendor
Abandoned in the
Hudson River wilderness.

The new moon glimmers
through blowing clouds,
Upon slender pillars
Long bare of paint,
And the massive bulldozer
Parked where once there lay
A Grecian urn,
Shattered 'midst
The summer weeds.

Long ago,
You found this place,
And claimed it for a summer,
Dru dancing barefoot
In the empty rooms,
You devouring
The library's dusty books,
Two dreadful children,
Playing house.

You walk alone tonight,
Beside this empty place,
Counting shuttered windows
As you go,
The tenth one down
Once let you in-
You try the latch,
It still remembers,
And lets you back inside.

In the library
The muslin shrouded furniture
Sags closer to the floor,
The smell of dry decay
More pronounced
Than you remember.
As you unroll
Your sleeping bag
By the empty
Marble fireplace.

Though the dead
Need no such warmth
You light a fire upon
The dusty hearth
With branches gathered
Beneath ancient trees,
Your footsteps harsh
Against the frozen ground
Echoing in the stillness.

Sunrise finds you
Sleepless,
Basking in
The fire's comfort.
Trying to remember-
No, to forget,
The people
You have loved and lost
Since that simple,
Soulless paradise.

You pause
As you light up a fresh one-
The book you read last
While in this house
Remains exactly
Where you left it.
On the table
Beside the chair
Before the fire
So many years ago.

When you reach
To pick it up
Something clatters
To the floor-
A pair of antique spectacles
You once found
Abandoned within
This empty house,
With fragile golden frames.

Though you
Do not need them,
Their comforting weight
Rests upon your nose,
As you resume
Where you last left off,
"Two roads diverged…"
While snow gently falls upon
The bulldozer outside.


Author's Note: The mansion in this, the next to last of my Hudson River Quadrology (Luna Moths and Oysters, House of Broken Mirrors, and Paintbox) is no place in particular but a montage, a tribute to all the grand and shattered dream palaces that have succumbed to progress and the bulldozer over the years.