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the river – dverse

January 23, 2014

The river runs past the boy forever
Each day the same, each moment different
Brown and lazy on the surface
Such hidden turbulence
Cold cold cold if you dare the depths

A hidden place, aged concrete bridge
Long ago replaced wrought iron trusses
That snap and yielding to the weight
Plunge so many to their deaths
Leaving coins amidst the polished stones
which line the river bank.

Do they dance here alone at night?
Always the past, without hope or future
Ghostly in pale moonlight
At this solemn lonely spot
Where only carp recall their names

Barefoot in the shallows tin can ready
lifting rock and scuttling backwards captured
crayfish tin prison and joyous boy
swimming backwards never looking
he just had to find your rock

fossils in the shale from forever long ago
and small bare toes mark the clay along the shore
they meander like the river up and down
forever and a day from now will they find the traces
of solitary boy with tin can treasures

A young boy would walk the mile or two into the ravine and woods behind his house
and seem to be the only person in the world. The bridge that spanned the river marked the site of
the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster.


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  1. The way this is told raises so many questions — is this boy a ghostly figure left behind from the disaster — or is he the memory of a little boy — or are the two one and the same. A hopeless situation if it’s the ghost – but in the boy there’s such an innocence that you don’t feel quite sad.

    • It’s the river by where I grew up and played. The train wreck was called the great ashtabula train wreck.

      • Even knowing it’s the site of a train wreck — the mood of the poem is otherworldly. 🙂

  2. I so loved the images that sprang from your words ~ thank you for sharing your talent

  3. I like how you wove the story of the past with the story of the present….and with the boy. I can see how the river was a friend to the boy and could sense the souls that had passed on from that disaster. The woods behind my house was my safe place.

  4. There are many personal stories within a disaster. You made it personal when the newspapers don’t.

  5. in de tuin permalink

    you made us unwrap a parcej with a grisly memory inside it…
    well done. such a vivid description of the setting. A bit like an old film ‘Boy on a Dolphin’, but not as joyous an ending.

  6. I like how a public story meets a personal story! I also enjoyed the atmosphere you created though your words.

  7. Timelessness encapsulated – the fossils, the boy’s traces in the mud. Disasters come and go, but the river stays on.

  8. I could feel the cold river. “Each day the same…” sets a nice tone. For example, I like “only carp recall their names.” I really enjoy the river, and you brought it to life. The poems an interesting mix of creepy and something I can’t put in words, but isn’t creepy. Nice.

    • when you jump in, it’s cold on top, then as you go deeper, each layer is colder. That was the heart of the boy too back then.

      The river was the only safe place, even though it was the site of a great tragedy.

      thanks for the comment.

  9. You drew from fact and blended into fiction – and in verse too. Very personal, very raw.

  10. I really liked the poetry in this. Very well done. >KB

  11. takes me back to childhood…the river that wound around my grammas house was full of adventure…and we would follow it for miles…the old bridge or train trussel are familiar to me as well…finding remnants of the past as well…oy, what a story you played off of as well…

  12. I like how you personified the river as a protector of the boy, a haven ~ The first stanza is stellar for me ~ Enjoyed the backgrounder as well ~

  13. This is more than a poem, it is a personal journey of love and of the heart. I can taste the pain and touch the heart in this.

    • thanks – sometimes the value of poetry is that is allows us to share emotions beyond the words.

  14. Taking a character and weaving a tale around an actual event… well done. The words are haunting and picture a vivid description of the lost souls… and the actions of the boy.. swimming, collecting coins… powerful. Great writing.

    • true story, true boy, the river was safe for the boy, though not for the train passengers. Thanks for reading.

  15. Oh, that is a very eerie story. I read the link you provided as well, which added dimension to the story!

  16. I think you retold the story on a very personal level with the little boy here.. really good.. and the connection to a real accident.. (there have been a few… and a bridge giving way has to be the worst)…

  17. oh heck.. just followed the link to read a bit about the background before i comment on your poem… so many lives lost in an instant… a big tragedy indeed… i like how you focus on the boy in the story and make it all the more personal

  18. Very neat poem, and an interesting read about the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster. Thanks Bill!

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