When I Was Young in the Rustbelt

A train blasts a loud warning, rocking past sooty little houses near the shipyards.

Next, the call and response of a Canadian freighter ship and the reedy bascule bridge (L O W W W W W … H I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I ) drown out the familiar whine of oar belts just at the mouth of the Black River.

The bridge, opening at the center, stops traffic. The road stands in two vertical columns.

My brother catches fish marred with gaping sores on their gills. I run about the jagged ruins of the shipyards throwing rusted soldering rods into the churning, oily water with a TWHIP!

We pause, enthralled by the massive boat’s approach.

A nearby tugboat captain remarks that we need a decent pair of shoes – a junk heap being no place for a pair of skinny kids in flimsy flip-flops. And don’t screw around that close to the river, because if you slip the ship’s undertow will take you down, and you’ll never come back up.

We don’t listen, though – just watch the freighter slide toward the lifting rail bridge, eyes glued on the tracks, listening for more trains.

Somebody mistimed this, once.

We are drawn to the possibility of a more spectacular catastrophe.