The Trace of Hope from Lock 29*: Advent 2018
He shuffles through December rain that is waiting to be snow,
waiting to be darkness. The river winds and bubbles,
today its power more a rumble than a roar.
He stands before the remnants of the lock that lifted
the canal boats high across the river’s coils.
If he were not alone, someone might hear him whisper
“The river is a path, the canal is a path, and then
the water’s voices, too.” All paths that lead
to last night’s dream, with his question to
a cloud above his bed: How am I to love all things
laid before me at this age of counting losses, in such a world as this?
Lovers, friends and creatures—all consigned to memories.
Hopefulness has always been his answer,
but now the favored scripture passes from his lips
like a habit worn out from its use.
Lord I believe…
They built this canal to tame the waters,
but no water is ever tamed for good.
The canals fell to the rails, that fell to roads,
that swelled to highways. Each chance buried in another’s hope.
In any case he is standing here alone, once the hope of two,
waiting at the mossy lock as if it were a sepulcher.
Long ago, in a time of sorrow, a country pastor
told him “Think of the present imperfect.
Be emptying your hopes of everything but hope.
Figure it out. You will be okay.”
He remembers two years ago exactly,
Driving back down Riverview, dazzled
by sunlight slanting through a stand of cedars
Like a fold of angels. But that was then.
Now the rain has found its temperature.
In the darkness graupel dances on his hood
and in his lights, sparking in the darkness.
He is drifting to the boy in the back seat
of a Mercury, staring at the Christmas lights,
his breath a halo on the glass, the soft voices of assurance.
The snow becoming fire, becoming stars.
He is thinking he will be okay.
*A note to my distant friends. Lock 29 on the old Ohio & Erie Canal was actually an aqueduct that raised the canal boats above the bending stretch of the Cuyahoga River at the village of Peninsula, Ohio. Remnants of the old lock remain, and I have visited many times. For some reason, Lock 29 called to me as a site for this year’s poem. You might think it an odd place to seek hopefulness, but I have found all such places to appear odd choices, at least at first.