Waterway – David Lohrey
July 30, 2020
We all live on the Hudson: America’s only true river. It’s
a driveway, a landing strip, and a dead end. It’s not the only
river to become a school; it’s the only one beheld by the likes
of George Washington, Melville, and Sir Winston Churchill.
The Hudson is a work of art first seen by Thomas Cole, Church,
and Cropsey. It is the river of Allen Ginsberg and Malcolm X.
The Hudson crosses the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
linking Boston and San Francisco.
The Hudson isn’t only about water; it embodies all that is known
and then some. It holds the land. It encircles the earth, embracing
West Point, that cool cat school that trains cadets to remain calm
under fire, and Cheever country, where swimmers can get lost.
Hyde Park to the north, Yonkers to the south: lose one’s way
and end up in the Bronx, not far from that immortal place
where the Yankees play, just up from Maya Angelou’s Harlem,
and where Ellison explained to Bellow what it meant to be invisible.
Beyond the Berkshires, Edith Wharton once made guests feel
Cosmopolitan. Somewhere in the Connecticut forests could be found
Philip Roth, standing always at his desk, concocting stories of lust and loss,
not far from the Hudson, where Saul Bellow once trained lions.
There they lived in the shadow of their depression-era hero, FDR,
whose stuffed birds dreamt of flying. William Kennedy lived by the pen
in the shadow of that river. From Albany to Newark, bought and paid for
by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a man is taken in by the likes of Huck Finn.
The Nile may be longer but this eerie canal runs deeper. The Hudson’s
not only a river but an artery. It’s the life blood of this nation. Unlike
the Mississippi, the Hudson doesn’t flood. It runs full force into the sea.
It takes its time and then picks up at Poughkeepsie.
It’s not called ol’ man river because it’s young. A real dame, she minds
her own business. The Amazon runs black, filled with piranha and cashew
husks, but the Hudson feeds on pines and beavers, English blue bloods,
and greedy Dutch.
The Hudson runs through steel country, not rubber plantations,
navigated by men dressed in black, not adventurers in panama hats.
The tears of the Iroquois add to the river’s flow, just ask Edmund Wilson,
an aqueduct of despair and hope, now runs clear.
Vanderbilt’s ships are gone; the river prevails. It is New York’s longest
running show, surpassing Broadway Baby. Its lights never dim. This river
flows to the base of the Statue of Liberty. It soaks up the ashes of burning
buildings. Corpses float to the bottom. Fireworks light the skies.