Strong place, queen city, once
the mansions on the hill ruled Water Street,
White and Church. Men with pocket watches
walked to Railroad Square. Now nursing homes slump,
fill with what was once thought upper crust. Offices
of small-town lawyers sell attics filled with old fur coats
and trundle beds, and advertise a port-cochere.
Rubber rumbles over the chink-clink bridge,
another U-Haul packed. In the rear view only red and grift,
the blistered shells of cars and crusted men
in DD’s parking lot. They clasp their Buds and grumble
from their worn lawn chairs, betray
that honest work they shared, of uppers and lowers,
of heels and soles, before the jobs went south.
Two battered boys drift from all they know.
Almost-men, fed all their lives from a freezer or a tin,
they’ve watched their world grind small, seen
river’s edge grow tire necklaces, and condoms sprout.
Sludge rules the bank where a poet wrote of barefoot boys
and novelists mined dreams deferred. Now in a land of fallen
ceilings, tattooed girls, four o’clock Mass, deflowered altar
boys, they visit Jimmy’s Market for news and bread and a ticket
out of town. They cross the membrane from where they’ve been
to somewhere they think they want to be. Under
the bridge’s rusty span, a fingernail moon reflects.
Over it they drag their lives like a string of cans.
Sherry Gage Chappelle was born and raised in New England and Upstate New York where she saw first hand the effects modern progress had on life and jobs there. As a poet, she is proudest of her 2011 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize winning chapbook, Salmagundi, and her recognition from the Delaware Division of the Arts in 2016 as an Emerging Poet.