Three days after the
     coup's defeat, with
communism all but
         buried, I came to
 Canterbury to
         find a peg to
mark the way.

The houses rose like white
        birch on the hill,
             guardians of a vision
         that still draws
the tourists of New York
      and Boston.

Here they lived in families of
        hundreds, sisters and
brethren, celibate
   but busy, putting "hands to
work, hearts to God," packaging their
      seed, crafting chairs
              for angels.

Somewhere on the
 grounds the last Shaker
      sister ("a bit reclusive at
  ninety-five") stays hidden
     behind thick curtains
          of memory. Furtively, we
     search the windows
  for a sign.

In the laundry, amidst belts
      and clever gears, the tour guide tells
how Engels once cheered

       a sagging Marx:
"Think of the Shakers!"
        --words which echo
     through the polished, empty

Dead dreams pile up like
         New Hampshire leaves, but still
  this ground feels hallowed,
       for on the hill
an idea, powerful as Moscow's
     crowds, still speaks of purpose,
           of simple gifts
  and sharing.

September 8, 1991

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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