by Paul Kiernan
I listened to the ranger at the lighthouse
Tell of the great civil works built at the pass years ago.
“State of the art” he called the engineering.
He spoke of the phosphate, tons carried down by the Seaboard Line
From Bone Valley, several trains each day, hundreds of hoppers
Feeding the loading dock where ship upon ship
Took on their cargo right up to the full load line.
How many crews of men worked there over the decades?
How many tons of cargo, how many trains and ships?
I walked down to the turbulent pass my head swimming with numbers.
The dock and all its works are gone
But the railroad bridge still runs down the island like an old scar.
You can see the concrete of its venerable arches crumbling.
Some rotting ties and rusted rails are all that’s left.
No train has travelled it for fifty years.
I met a fisherman there, well up in years,
And he was busy with his luck,
His chest full of the fish he’d caught.
When I asked if he had ever worked the docks, years before,
He casually cast his line – like a wand, it seemed to me,
To wave away the destiny of things,
He said, “The fishing ‘s best around the piers.”
[Check out Paul Kiernan’s back porch advice]