History of the River

connecticut, river, mt

The glacier scoured the land
dug a channel, and I, the river, was born.
No one was there to give me a name.
The dinosaurs who gathered at the shore
bending their long curved necks to drink
did not have Latin names.

I meander, reach back
to the memory of youth,
how I danced down
past those stretches
where swallows pocked
houses into sandy banks,
where nymphs shed seventeen
whole skins, turned into dragonflies
before they died.

But then men came,
called me “Long River,”
stripped bark from trees along my bank
for houses, boats, and baskets.

Beaver, otter, eagle, kingfisher,
salmon, shad, burbot, bowfin
all were named, became food for men.
Even so, in those days,
in summer I still played,

would listen to haiku of hawks,
ballads of frogs, and come autumn,
songs rasped by copper-colored leaves
as the otter’s black head
thrust straight for shore.

I saw red cardinal flowers
in pointillistic dots
between asters and goldenrod.
Around a turn, sheer rock walls
were cool and mossed.
Memory greens everything.

But as I entered sober adulthood,
I was forced to become industrious.
I received my grown-up name:

As then was clogged
with logs from head to toe,
and some years later,
my substance, water,
was pumped up through a mountain
to a man-made upper reservoir
and then released downhill
through turbines, generating
thousands of kilowatts per second.

And now, today, bulldozers and backhoes,
the eunuch dinosaurs of the modern age
metal arms slewing left and right,
try to shore up
my eroding shores.

Plastic surgery for the aging girl—
because people must not live without
lamps to lighten the darkness.


By Amy Gordon (Through the Eyes of Nature – 2nd place winner)

Amy Gordon is the author of ten books for children and young adults. Her first chapbook of poetry, Deep Fahrenheit, was published by Prolific Press in 2019. She lives in Western, Massachusetts by the Connecticut River.