Monday, January 9, 2012

Bitter River

I went down to the river, a place I love, 
to feel the first spring breeze against my face.
It brings to mind my boat, my Belle, 
my heart for many years.

We'd go early each spring to open her for the season,
to take the antifreeze from her pipes, 
the veins that gave us water, 
to sweep the cobwebs from her windows, 
awakening her from slumber.

I checked the lines, still snugly tied
and turned to greet the boat, "Hello, Belle," 
as I always did, running my hands along her sides
I could tell how her winter had been.
The feel and sound of my fingers as they
stroked the rough wood told me where
I would need to scrape and paint.

One rough trip I found her hull scraped bare,
leaving a patch of polished steel 
where before had been matte black.
Badly hurt, she'd brought us safely home
and deserved our tender care.
I washed and painted her wound,
remembering the scream of metal 
as she slid unhappily along the lock wall, 
and hoped to avoid an infection of rust.

Knowing her in this way, she became a living thing
and I wondered at her days when we weren't with her.
I once found a winter's worth of bones and scales
where an eagle had used her deck as a fishing lodge,
a place to enjoy its tasty catch. 
It felt unfair to sweep the pearly shards into the river,
like erasing a page from Belle's diary,
expunging her life with other tenants 
who'd taken shelter there.

Too early to hear the carp drumming on our boat,
adding their voices to the bullfrogs' choir
along the Muskingum's banks,
we curled against each other in the night, 
a cocoon of warmth against the chilled March air, 
where we listened to bright sounds, 
like cocktail party chatter, 
as the river rippled past the hull.

It was a loving struggle to bring her to life,
and when she was ready she was stolen
by a patient criminal, her lines loosened
by nicotine-stained fingers and a lifetime of lies,
to cruise on bitter rivers.

I turned from the river and walked away, 
as the cold breeze raised sharp ripples,
sounding now like a shattered heart.


Scout said...

This is just beautiful, Speedway. The idea of the boat being actually wounded is powerful, as are the phrases "infection of rust" and "bitter rivers."

Speedway said...

Thank you, Scout. As I'd tell, Dive - who's gone on a well-earned walkabout, I guess - who'da thunk it? I'm trying to find my voice so I'll be able to write the Dresden Belle's story in a way that won't be a dull recitation of facts. Your feedback, and Dive's is of great help.

I don't have a literary background to draw on referencing bunches of poetic symbolism, or a personality that entertains some kind of artistic angst. I just write my little story, then the graphic designer in me comes out to break the lines into readable phrases.

Scout said...

You're a graphic designer, too? I was one officially for nearly 20 years and then quit to write for a newspaper. Now I just do odd jobs for friends and non-profits—all pro-bono and all much fun than when it earned me money.

Speedway said...

Yeh, Scout. I can remember my first drawings, a cardinal and a robin, when I was a toddler. Went on to HS training then majored in painting in college. Unfortunately, I had no idea of how to plan a career, to make a living. However, I did take GD courses in college and spent 25 or so years supporting myself, sort of, doing production art, advertising layouts, posters, etc. I started taking pictures in'68, and intended it more as a sketchbook than an end in itself. Now I'm trying to bring it all back to life.

dive said...

Beautiful and heartbreaking, Speedway. I agree with Robyn.
I'm not on walkabout, by the way, but working flat out for a few weeks to get a tender out on a large project. It's taking all my time but I'll be back.

Speedway said...

Oh, thank you, Dive. I don't mean for it to be heartbreaking, but since I'm the one who strung the words together, I guess I won't see it the way others might, encountering it for the first time.

Oops, I just meant that you'd probably taken time off to rehydrate the blog mojo, not any wandering off from work, etc. Me? I go "walkabout" all the time, walks around town, etc.

Good luck on the proposal (tender?). I hope your research is successful.