01 April, 2020: The Trace of Hope From Lock 29
Read a Poem
THE TRACE OF HOPE FROM LOCK 29 by David Adams
By David Adams
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.
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 sepulchre.
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.
“The Trace of Hope at Lock 29” by David J. Adams, from the blog Gardenopolis. 2018, and collected in Resurrection River Poems. Edith Chase Symposium. Wick Poetry Center. Kent State University. 2019. Used by permission of the author.
David Adams is a poet who lives in Burton, Ohio. He has been a wandering laborer, academic and technical writer. His tenth book of poetry, Waiting Places: Poems of Advent Seasons, appeared in 2016. With Linda Wagner-Martin, he edited Over West: Selected Writing of Frederick Eckman with Commentaries and Appreciations (National Poetry Foundation, 1999). He is also the author of COPE: A Technical Writing Guide for Engineers, 3rd Ed. ( University of New Haven, 2016). David is currently collaborating with the composer Dawn Sonntag on an opera about the life and death of Clara Haber.
Write a Poem
Write about a time when you left somewhere very early in the morning: How did you travel? Who was with you? And what was the light like, from beginning to end of the trip?