Vermont Exit Ramps: “Who will claim the kingdom of exit ramps and cloverleafs/on the hillsides of I-89, these realms of birch and pine/rippling in mountain wind on a spring day, domains of quiet/forgetfulness, places ravaged and recovered…?” Of course the answer is patent: Neil Shepard will claim that kingdom. We might charge him with asking a purely rhetorical question but that the very rhetoric that follows proves so fine, the intimate knowledge it reflects so cogent, and the vision it bears so unusual, that such a charge immediately nullifies itself. We’ve long known this poet for his mastery of language, but in this extraordinarily inventive collection he shows himself a master too of both accuracy and invention. Dear reader, you will never again pass an exit ramp in Vermont or elsewhere as once you did.”  (Sydney Lea)


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VERMONT EXITS

Who will claim the kingdom of exit ramps and clover-leafs
on the hillsides of I-89, these realms of birch and pine

luffing in mountain wind on a spring day, domains of quiet
forgetfulness, places ravaged and recovered –

these little demesnes of bedstraw and clover
harboring deer and bear, who stare at cars

grinding past, a driver’s hands crossed around the curve,
a driver’s mind attuned to the bend and merge

of traffic motoring down hillsides to the towns –
perhaps a deer lifts its head from grazing, its jaw

grinding sideways, its ears alive to the downshift of gears
or simple wind along the ridgeline, beech leaves scratching

over moss and duff. One might slow or stop here
for a quick piss or a picnic of wood sorrel and ribgrass,

young dandelion and fiddlehead,
or might imagine a small cabin of clay and wattles made

claiming this place no one claims, the heavy machinery
having rattled past and gouged a pasture elsewhere, this place

that reminds us of the quiet, neglected places inside 
that flourish nonetheless, already ravished and recovered.




neil.shepard@jsc.edu

NEIL SHEPARD