Sammi’s Weekender #237 (mudlark)

Click the graphic to open Sammi’s blog.

 


Over The Susquehanna River

From New York it winds
nine hundred mudlarkable shoreline miles
through the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic.

Unlike Billy Collins, I fished it,
caught carp, sucker, catfish, perch; swam
polluted waters; climbed and walked
bridges and trestles. I grubbed its mud.

Remember disasters. Before mountains rose.
The Susquehanna is in my blood.


Look both ways when the river flows.
Here it comes, there it goes.
Mind the gaps, the pits, the whirlpools, and vermin.

***

Poetic license: The Susquehanna River is 444 miles long from New York, flowing through the State of Pennsylvania (where I knew it) into the Chesapeake Bay. That’s 888 miles of shoreline. I rounded up. Disasters include the Knox Mine crime, Three Mile Island, pollution and environmental catastrophe on an epic scale, and many devastating floods.

Poem: Black Diamond Banks


They were big, ugly, dangerous,
and ubiquitous to us. Black piles
of sandy slag, hundred foot high
hills of grief daring us
to climb to the top, for no reason,
sometimes at our own peril.

This stuff was soft like black, dry
quicksand. My foot would sink
and the slag would rise above my ankle,
sometimes to my knees,
allowing the scree into my shoes.
Each step was a challenge.
Maybe that’s why we climbed,
for the challenge, the thrill, the view,
perhaps the danger.
We’d been warned not to go.

Sometimes culm banks caught fire.
Children fell into their sink holes
and suffocated. Anthracite coal
was the black diamonds of the barons,
deadly job resources for citizens.
All overlooked, denied, or shrugged-off,
both human exploitation and environmental
degradation. They were witnesses
to the need and to the greed.

I didn’t know it then,
most of the world’s anthracite
coal supply was crushed by eons
of pressure beneath my feet. It was also
why we were there: the sons, daughters,
and grands of the men who built the banks.


Look both ways with two perspectives, theirs and ours.
Mind the gaps as you watch for the traps.

One of several historical societies in Northeastern PA is the Luzerne County Historical Society