Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Listen:If someone were to ask her what she wanted most she would say, Give me a long ride on the river. Give me a canal song to sing and a captain to sing it with. Give me the romance of moonlight.She pictures herself floating in from Schuylkill Haven, watching the trees and the fish and the towns slide by. She imagines learning the canals well enough to name the mules, to care for coal, to tell canalling stories of her own. There was once a hook-armed bowsman, she’d begin. There was once a woman they called Ham and Eggs who jig-danced for every quart of whiskey. There was once a boy who hid himself among chickens in the cabin.She is keen to the hidden craving in all things: the yearning tucked inside the songs of birds, the unconfessed regrets of men, the permanent rage of an unfinished fire. My craving the loudest of all, for I do not wish to be diverted from myself, to be sucked down pipes and into homes, to be severed into locks and keys, to be dammed and forebayed and waterwheeled toward a reservoir, and out again, through bored wooden pipes, and into the calamity of homes.
—from Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River
(Beth Kephart, Temple University Press)