It’s almost morning and the music
comes across muted in the mirror ball
near-light reflecting on the dance floor.
All night the couples have swayed
and bumped with one another,
even grinding their slippery bodies
in the moaning dark to the tune
that’s played in this joint since
the big bottoms shook hands
and opened it.
The aroma of old smoke
and older subterranean sweat
drifts heavy to you on the shore
and then come the voices signaling
Last Call, turning on those too bright lights,
pushing and hustling the dancers
on their ways to their daily jobs
filling these arteries with the ichor
from the black heart of the Alleghenies.
They’ll be back tonight, because
the rhythm of these rivers is all
they know, the blood-pumping
life of these sooty coal buckets,
these rusty barges with names like
painted ladies and otherwise
forgotten river men. Tonight they’ll
close their eyes and lean into
one another in the dark again.
And oh how they’ll dance!
This poem was inspired by the photo above by my friend, the super-talented photographer/artist/writer Diana Matisz from The City of the Three Rivers, and is used with her permission. She wrote of it: “A morning in which the old-bone creak of coal barges scraping against each other, is the only sound in this river valley…” Beats any poetry I can make.