That’s how I got to see the Mississippi River. Rounds and rounds of beers and civic pride and cultural comparisons and wanting to try prairie oysters but the jars bloody-well empty, when somebody suggests, insists, and you’re laughing in the back seat of a car, and when you stop it becomes all serious and quiet, and you’re led in the dark to the top of a dirt mound levee; and it’s pitch black but you sense something vast, lurking and fucking awesome out there and down at your feet. We all sobered and nobody said anything for fear of breaking the spell. We knew the river was there, the river knew we had come to see her. Then when we felt we had gained a sense of up, down and across, a bright, white light popped the black like a distant search probe and it kept sweeping from bank to bank in furtive, jerking arcs. “Barges”, was all our hosts explained, all they needed to explain.
My Illinois experience leads me to post a poem by a renowned American poet Alan Kaufman, titled, Across the Mississippi. I love this poem - not only for the content that I feel I can relate to, but also for the conversational and confessional style in which the poem is written. Alan Kaufman follows on the heels of the beat generation of poets – grown up impoverished tough, seeking the altruistic heart of America, somehow lost in the ugliness of city and struggle, racial abuse, greed, indifference, pimps and drugs. I love it!