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
drowns 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
while I
run about
the jagged
ruins of the
shipyards
throwing
rusted
soldering
rods into
the oily
churning
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.