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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fast Day 188 January 8 2010 {Old Man Meets American Century}

 Lee and Grant Chromo on a Cigar Box

Old Man Meets the American Century

Winter’s army comes on with bluster and with brass
advancing now as it did when I was young like you,
fighting with broad lath swords and beating drums of tin;
following on the harvest parliament of wheat fields:
where hand-picked and hand-raked barley-bearded quorum
of serious representatives  - who do not
hold with mythic summer’s hoop snake, gold bear, and snipe -
meet to palaver about seeding times to come…
usurped by winter’s coasting time, a sledding time
down long slopes, past stands of pine, and over rivers
frozen as they were when struck by the crystal spear!
We used to play and then go in to warm up by
the stove beneath two chromos of Grant and Sherman.

I went to meet the American Century
as it came downstream on January third, for
it carried coal to the Edison plant and was
not a metaphor for the future anymore,
not Manifest Destiny, but a working boat
that needed customs work done which I would do-
January as well as June, cold or hot nights
under the umbrella of Homeland Security.
The Great Lakes freighters stoked the arsenals
of democracy in the world war; the mate
was John and he said that it had been a slow year
this year, but not as bad as oh-nine and then laughed
‘cause everyone knew oh-nine was the year without…
just without… like it never was, and then we laughed
and drove at four o’clock in the morning to the
Customs at the Bridge, where we had our pick of
agents, for there was no truck traffic on the third…
We talked on the way back down through all the little
towns: he had been married once before while I 
was looking at forty years, and he asked if I was now
planning something special. I said if I were not
then forty-one would never see the light of day!
John invited me aboard, but security
was much tighter now than when I was a boy
and clearance had to be issued ahead of time…

One more trip up to Two Harbors before they lay
her up for the winter season. It was time;
ice hung like arctic bunting up and down the bow
from the trip down from Duluth. She used to be the
Star, the Columbia Star, until a couple
years ago when Columbia went out and sold
the boats, and American Steam bought her and
she was the Century! My grandpa, he did see
the Columbian Exposition in Chi-town
and the Pan-American in Buffalo, New York…
I was born in the American Century...
the twentieth, after we took the Philippines...
and I stood right close enough to spit that night,
but I had no clearance, and I thought of when
Joe Nutt used to take me right up to the stack base
at the Edison and the wind blew me dizzy
and I saw so far that I believed that I
could see the curvature of the globe beneath me!

American Century as the Columbia Star


Meeting the freighter American Century at 4 in the morning just seemed like going to meet a metaphor "The American Century" in my dreams. It is a very quiet time of day.
The monumental has lost no bulk, but it has lost its grandeur. 

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