We all live on the Hudson, America’s only true river. It’s
a driveway, a landing strip, and a dead end. The Hudson is not the only river
to become a school, but it is the only one once beheld by the likes of George
Washington, Melville, and Sir Winston Churchill. The Hudson is a work of art
surrounded by cathedrals 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 to San Francisco. Look at a map.
The Hudson doesn’t only contain water; it embodies all that is known
and then some. It holds the land. It encircles the earth. West Point,
the cool cat school where men train to remain calm under fire,
lies in the river valley, in Cheever country, where his swimmer drank
until he lost track of where he was going. Hyde Park to the north, Yonkers to the south:
lose one’s way and end up in the Bronx, not far from that immortal stadium,
just up from Maya Angelou’s Harlem. Not as far west as Buffalo, not as far east
as the Berkshires, where Edith Wharton made guests feel cosmopolitan.
Somewhere in the Connecticut forests can be found the best: Philip Roth
standing at his desk, concocting stories of lust and loss, not far
from Bellow’s Hudson, where he once trained lions. There they lived
in the shadow of their depression-era hero, FDR, who stuffed bird carcasses
and dreamt of flying. They lived by the pen in the shadow of that river,
from Peekskill to Newark, bought and paid for in its youth,
once owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a man not taken in by Huck Finn’s brand of jive.
The Nile might 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 and feminine. A real dame, she
minds her business. The tears of the Iroquois add to the river’s flow.
They’re what give the river depth. The Amazon runs black, filled with piranha
and cashew husks, but the Hudson feeds on pine and beaver, English
blue bloods, and greedy Dutch.
The Hudson runs through steel country, not rubber plantations,
navigated by men dressed in black, not adventurers in white muslin suits.
And now this river, an aqua duct of despair and hope, runs clear.
FDR’s backyard has been spared. Vanderbilt’s ships are gone; the
river prevails. It is New York’s longest running show, surpassing Broadway
Baby by a millennium. Its lights never dim. Sharks can’t swim upstream.
Corn floats. This river flows to the base of the Statue of Liberty. It soaks up
ashes from burning buildings. Corpses float to the bottom. Debris is
carried out to sea. The Hudson will always be a safe spot to land.
David Lohrey grew up in Memphis. His poetry can be found in Otoliths, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Easy Street and Quarterday. In addition, recent poems have been anthologized by the University of Alabama (Dewpoint), Illinois State University (Obsidian) and Michigan State University (The Offbeat). Work can also be found in The Stony Thursday Book (Limerick) and Hidden Channel Zine (Mall Sligo). David is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective in Houston. Recent fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Brilliant Flash Fiction and inshadesmag.com. He teaches in Tokyo.