Cherry trees along the canal struggle

out of winter. Red brick ripples

on the surface, laps against rotting


leaves, beer cans, graffiti. From the bridge

beside the old church, you can hear it coming:

drone, babble of motorboat, chattering tour.


Middlesex Canal, twenty-eight miles to Boston;

forty mills by 1850, hundreds

of water-wheels, thousands of looms spinning;


foreign dignitaries came to see this

country at its finest; unions, strikers,

riots, Industrial Workers of the World.


No one’s listening, and even if

they heard Wobblies they’d likely assume

it’s a local bird. They’re told about mill girls


but there’s no mention of how many threw

themselves, nameless, down to the water.

Some one notices the architecture

of the windows. No one sees the empty

storefront displays, most of downtown

out of business and not on the tour. No one


asks about the shopping carts huddled beneath

the bridge, about workers who kept coming

long after the trickle of work went dry.

If you’re not from here, it’s hard to see

that every year the waters rise and fall

and cherry trees struggle through the longest


winters. If you are, you watch each blossom

tumble to the water’s edge and settle in grass

that sways, unbroken, in the passing wake.



Photo By: Frank Dürr