The steel plant is closed. The steel plant is closed. Ignore the sound of power-hammers beating in the hot summer nights. The steel plant is closed.
You catalogue the flotsam on the town beach. Schools of dead fish. Tangled balloon-strings from birthday parties long past. Coins from realms no one has been to, chips of broken pottery worn smooth after long years grinding in the waves. And why are there so many goddamn tampon applicators? Who does that?
There is an anchor on the village green salvaged from a shipwreck. No one notices it. To speak of the terrible price to acquire it would be too much like admitting guilt.
The historical plaque at the crossroads has worn away. You cannot read it. This is a kindness.
The beach is closed, today. You should not go swimming. Is it e. Coli? you ask the health inspector. Yes, yes, e. Coli, he says, nodding fervently. Something like desperate relief flashes over his face. A coiling frond of green uncurls in the shallow water.
There are shadows on the lake-ice. They look like men. Avert your eyes.
The wind smells of the coal-burning power plant. The wind smells of the Cheerios factory. The wind smells like shipwreck, blizzards, foreign lands, like winters that last ‘til May.
A seagull once stole your hotdog at a family reunion at the Point. You were marked out that day. When they deem you ready, the seagulls will return again, and this time, it is you they will bear aloft into the blue Memorial Day sky.
A ghost-ship floats above Niagara Falls, forever hemmed in by the rapids. Its rusted form appears in the background of your souvenir snow-globe. Was it always there? Is it a ship for ghosts, or the ghost of a ship?
There is one tin of sponge candy to share among five people.
Some days the Canadian shore is a shimmering line across the water. Some days it is a bank of fog rising so thick and high you could mistake it for a mountain range. Some days, you see buildings, faint but unmistakable, floating out on the water where no buildings can be.
Your great-uncle was a smuggler during Prohibition. He drove his Model T across the ice to St. Catherine’s to buy Canadian whiskey. He was caught by the feds, and your family will not speak of the terrible tax they extracted from him, the onus that you are now heir to.
It is black, wet March. The grapevines must be tied down. The grapevines must be tied down. Knot the twine and twist the wire though your hands are numb with cold. The grapevines cannot escape again.
Didn’t you use to have a sister, an extra little sister? They sent her to Father Baker’s as a warning to the rest of you. They took her name and your memories of her. You wish it had been you.
We must not look in the windows of that pizza place. We dare not e’en speak its name.
There are three directions: the lake, the hills, and Up Gowanda Way. Everything is Up Gowanda Way, though you never get to Gowanda itself.
What do you mean the Sabres never won the Stanley Cup? You remember them winning when you were little. You cannot be convinced otherwise. How could this be? The world is wrong. A chill runs down your neck.