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Sestina for the New Development

“And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home …” —Robert Frost, “Directive”

In the field beside our road they’re breaking ground
for the new development—the carpenters work
day and night, nailing roofs and framing walls.
Soon, I suspect, there’ll be no open land left
where some pinstriped realtor hasn’t raised
his sign offering “acres to rent, lease, or buy.”

Last Friday night, after work, I strolled by
the construction site where the rutted ground
had been completely stripped of green and raised
in mud-mounds around the rangy framework         
of two dozen houses. No trees are left—
replaced by steel crossbeams and drywall

panels stamped in the middle with “Redi-Wall,”
as if the wood itself was willing. I said good-by
to a hazy afternoon, how our boots left
half-moon tracks in this once-furrowed ground,
how it packed beneath us as we walked to work
for the farmer who grew sweet corn and raised

a herd of Angus. His bulls were fatted and raised
on feed from these fields where a tasseled wall
swayed each July like a choir. Who can stop workers
in brokers’ offices from posting “rent, lease or buy”—
here or anywhere else. There’s still some open ground
to be bought or legally taken. They will have left

these papery walls across it, left-
over nails and bits of twisted metal raised
straight up like dead worms, poking the ground
where the sky once grew out of our sweet green wall.
The families will arrive in mini-vans, eager to buy.
They will put up curtains, wood decks, and stonework.

Buy the ground. Raise your children and go to work.
What’s left of Angus, sweet corn, soil and sky?
Good neighbors, come. Bring good walls.

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—Jen Bryant (originally published in Clackamas Literary Review)
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