I’m going to begin this week with a pat on the back. Well, a pat on my back.
Nobody reads poetry in this country. We don’t value it, we don’t appreciate it, we don’t nurture it. Poets are as useful as Latin, as obsolete as rotary phones. So when a journal publishes your poetry, well, you tell people. Why? Because they’ll never find it on their own, that’s why. So, the Spring 2010 issue of The Wildwood Journal, a literary journal created and distributed by Harrisburg Area Community College, published three of my poems, all of which you’ve seen here in the Versus series: “Brother’s Closet” and “Butterfly.” Are these my favorite poems? No, not by any means. (I’ve written and re-written “Brother’s Closet” at least 50 times and I’m still not happy with it.) However, published is published, and sometimes you just need to be grateful. With that, thanks to The Wildwood Journal and its staff.
With that, I thought I’d pick a poem I wrote that was inspired by a well-known landmark in the city of Harrisburg, the Susquehanna River. I fish the river during the Summer. I’ve swam in this river. I drive by some stretch of it nearly every day. Anyone from Harrisburg or parts nearby knows the Susquehanna. It is really quite famous. Front Street, incidentally, runs along the river. Anyway, I wrote today’s poem a good six years ago, at least. In fact, I think I was living in Philadelphia at the time, back home in Harrisburg visiting family. It’s never been workshopped, and never even been read. Til now, that is. Enjoy.
Driving Up Front Street, 4 AM
Even though I can not see the river
I know the river is there, and hear
the gentle break lap the granite valley
that contains it. Nothing is visible
at this hour, and the fog is hardly
romantic. Having driven this road ten-
hundred times before, there’s nothing to do
but drive, afraid at any moment I might
shut my eyes forever, so disconnected
I think to search the radio for anything
80’s, knowing full-well hating something
that much might be enough to wake you
back into being. But soon my face is buried
in the black river, where the river should be,
and I can not see the river or the road.
Everything is a black expanse, a drape
around the world, clean-pressed and even,
and I’ve given up on a regular vision
of what it is to drive. Since the road
is now the water, I’ve taken to swimming
the distance home, cupped hands cutting through
the river’s little ripples and flow
before I finally fall in line, quit working,
and let the black water carry me to somewhere
I didn’t know I was going, but wanted.