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PILGRIMAGE

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

The houses rose like white
         birch on the hill,
    a vision
              which  still lures
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 the last Shaker
      sister ("a bit reclusive at
  ninety-five") stays hidden
     behind thick curtains
          of memory.  Furtively, we
     searched the windows
  for a sign.

In the laundry, amidst clever belts
      and gears, the tour guide tells
how Engels once cheered
  a sagging Marx:
      "Think of the Shakers!"
               --the words now echoing
     through polished, empty
 rooms.

Dead dreams pile up like
         New Hampshire leaves, but still
  this ground feels hallowed,
          for here
ideas, powerful as Moscow's
     crowds, still speak of purpose,
           of simple gifts,
  and sharing.


October 23, 1990


All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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