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Encounter in Buffalo

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The country lies flat, expressionless as the face of a stranger.   
Not one hillock shelters a buried bone. The city:
a scene thin as a theater backdrop, where no doors open,   
no streets extend beyond the view from the corner.

Only the railroad embankment is high, shaggy with grass.   
Only the freight, knuckling a red sun under its wheels,   
drags familiar box-car shapes down long perspectives   
of childhood meals and all crossings at sunset.

With a look deep as the continent, with the casual greeting   
of those who will meet again, it bestrides the viaduct.   
Its span is the span of trestles above mountain gorges,   
its roar the echo of streams still wearing away stone.


Mary Barnard, “Encounter in Buffalo” from Collected Poems (Portland: Breitenbush, 1979). Used by permission of the Estate of Mary Barnard.
Source: The Collected Poems of Mary Barnard (Breitenbush, 1979)
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Encounter in Buffalo

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