We sit in the river’s lap
asking for a tale
so The River begins
with dirt unearthed from the thirties
when waters ran eighty feet
and kept on runnin’ for the seven hills.
Some towns declared martial law,
others thought instead to declare
this disaster maritime.
Carousel horses from Coney Island
leaped off their stead and floated away.
Downtrodden men held out hands
for rationed gallons of drinkable water
while the river flowed through
to sop their feet.
Someone said the river would stop,
but it kept comin’ up each notched stick.
One boy, he ran, up a wood pole
and the river climbed right up behind.
When the water cleared, everyone was in need,
everyone was all poured out.
We sat again in The River’s lap,
the story blooming
like a pop-up book with predictable arc.
Men went to work as waters rushed,
erecting fences, kids with erector sets.
Citizens tripped over sand bags,
blockades and each other
to catch a glimpse of greatness
misfortunes of the river’s banks.
Many were turned away from work
‘til the river loosened its grip.
Eight to ten feet to go,
fish wove in and out
of cypress twigs and potted plants
plunged to their death below.
All that sod, a man wiped his brow.
now washed away or worse –
rotten to the root.
There are places grass won’t grow
once The River has its way.
High above, another carousel
had no quivers, its horses yet
to don their coat of paint.
While up on Fourth, drivers turned
off cars and minds, pedestrians peddled
with cappuccino poured, newspaper hawkers
all oblivious of The River
who had waited eighty years
Ohio River flood.