The river below us:
nitrogen, phosphorous, petrochemicals,
dioxin from the paper mills,
a rich buffet of metals digested
from the mines, and still we remain
oblivious to its symptoms
until a skull-and-crossbones sign warns
of the poisons that run the course
of its slim body, writhing like a patient
on a gurney, admitted for treatment;
warns too, of its offspring
in the waiting room: soft-shell crabs, oysters,
the striped bass, the silk fillet,
and the trout we want to bring home
to the sizzle of butter and garlic
and the fresh herbs in the kitchen.
And suddenly we are left alone
to recover mere memory: the river
we had swung across on ropes
in the dungarees of childhood,
splashing in its shallow gut; the river
over which we fought and killed—
and for which we even died—
the river we damned.
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