Down by the River


On the spongy banks of the Little Miami River
I lingered alone in the foggy mist at midnight.
It came scatterbrained, like a man in drag,
rising from the water in the glowing moon.
For a moment there was silence, then it spoke.

“They’re so hard, the golden traps Satan sets.
Sharp teeth and claws … impossible to see.
I’ve waited for you on the iron rails of destiny
hoping to provide you with a touch of clarity.
The barriers are set up to keep muddled minds
muddled. Murky water in a radioactive river
bright blue sparks and hydro-electric dams
separating the many into two distinct types.

The Ill: delivered to an isolated infirmary
held on white linen by brown leather
strapped to cold chrome and springy foam
and fed a diet of chemical fixer-uppers,
downers, laughers, screamers and shouters.

The Pipers: hunted, found, rounded up
and sent by boxcar train to the penitentiary.
Called heretics and sorcerers. Drunkards. Madmen.
Lost minds searching for something they can’t
comprehend in a world they will never understand.

Will you be one of these or a solitary salmon?
Can you swim past the traps, go against
the current of conformity and laugh (not cry)
as you’re passed by millions of frantic fish
rushing one way while you’re going the other
all of them telling you that you’re wrong?
What I mean is, are you strong enough to
be yourself? Are you a salmon or a trout?”

With that the thing submerged again,
into the dark, cold water like a U-Boat
leaving me to my solitude on the shores
of the Little Miami River. Knee deep in mud
due to the unexpected duration of my stay.


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