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