As a girl I rode over the salt roads
of winter by Great Lake Ontario,
singing in our rusted Ford Pinto,
I have a mule and her name is Sal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
What did I know of labor? My father
dressed in sawdust & asbestos,
scrubbing hands with steel wool.
We hauled barges in our day,
Filled with lumber, coal, & hay.
What did I know of history?
Our Rochester was America’s first
boomtown on the old Erie Canal
spanning land three hundred miles––
Every inch of the way, we know,
from Albany to Buffalo––
hooking with the Hudson, floating
commerce from port of Manahatta––
my home now, to hub of Great Lakes,
rulers of my childhood’s tundra.
The virgin trip took ten days to deliver
Governor Clinton to New York Harbor.
Cannons sounded, he emptied a vial
of water from Great Lake Erie
into the Atlantic. Took a keg of ocean
back to Buffalo, wedding the waters.
~ ~ ~
Willa Carroll has published in Tin House, Narrative, 5 AM, Free State Review, Ilanot Review, Mary Magazine, Structo, The Equalizer, Tuesday; An Art Project, and Stone Canoe. She was the winner of Narrative’s Third Annual Poetry Contest, a semi-finalist for the “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Contest, and a nominee for a Pushcart Prize. Carroll received her MFA from Bennington where she was awarded the Liam Rector Scholarship. She has collaborated with other artists on numerous multimedia projects and performances. Video readings of her poems are in Narrative Outloud. She lives in New York City.