Master & Apprentice


Compare them & see.
The city of youth
Grows up alongside the ageless river,
Becomes apprentice of its flow.
The river is bustling
But always there,
Always also there.
You would think it does
But it has nowhere to go.
The city responds
With pigeons, people,
Seagulls on the backs of boats,
Sligo Enterprises, precocious Sligo Steel.
The smokestacks of necessary factories
Grow first, test the wind.


One day, the river knows,
The smokestacks will wobble;
They will wonder what they go to.
But that is later, when the river
Will barely make out the painted words
“Union Electric” fading finally
One bright-white day
Along the brick façade.


Before they were empty
Those empty blocks of stone
Churned out their products like a river,
The barges barged,
And the river flew,
And together they answered the urgency
Of a warring nation.
Though the city’s now splayed quiet,
The river still flows,
No older,
But busy filtering phosphate,
Fat yet with catfish grumbling
At the crumbling lock & dam,
Lonely for those buildings once high with smoke,
Once prodding the river with metal chutes,
Once laughing gaily,
Once pumping like the master.

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