Ode to the Merrimack River

by Joseph V. Kleponis

Merrimac, oh Merrimack,
“Swiftwater place”,
You are gentle and pure
As you tumble over rocks
Rising at the Pemigewasset
And the Winnespasaukee.

Wending over hills and cascading
Through forest falls and streams,
A place of abundant fish,
You fed the ancient Abenaki and Pennacook
Before rushing downstream
At Amoskeag Falls.

There, at Manchester,
The waters of Thoreau
Become wider and swifter yet;
Inviting settlers to the banks
At Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill,
Promising to sustain their lives.

In those cities of brick and stone,
The homes of Kerouac and Dubus,
Who paid homage to your pulse,
Man straightened you,
Bent you, turned you –
Using your power for his purpose –

Boott Cotton Mill, Ayer Mills,
Countless shoe shops
Producing goods;
The commerce flowing from you
Along the Middlesex Canal
To Boston and beyond.

Your waters
No longer so pure –
Fouled with dyes and other detritus –
Man, whom you nurtured,
Disgraced you
And subjugated you further still.

And so you flow within his bounds,
As if accepting his command,
Until rain, snow, and ice
Swell you to greatness once again
And urge you to press in a torrent
Against those meager restraints.

Then you rage
Past the cities, under the bridges, over the dams,
Back-flooding distant tributaries
In Wilmington, Andover, or Amesbury –
Showing your power once more.

At Newburyport,
Where Samuel de Champlain
First set eyes on your shimmering waters,
Boats are raised to escape your torrent;
And you rise in finality over Salisbury’s black rocks –
To become forever free, joining the tides of the sea.


Category: Poetry, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing