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Thursday, April 4, 2013

One June day by the Garfield Falls: 1983

I don't know who made the falls, or why, though time has warped them beyond the original intent, spreading them green with vegetation the designers would have been appalled to see, making their six steps slippery from the top of the eight foot drop to the bottom, red brick and concrete worn out from the passage of water over them, each crack catching some of the refuse dumped in the river upstream in Paterson or Elmwood Park.
On ordinary days, the brink is not a threat. Even young children take the challenge to walk its breath, from this side behind Service Diner to the far other side where the canal separates from the river proper designed once to aid the processing inside the paper mills, children like tightrope walkers, their arms stretch out to either side, their shoes tied around their necks by the laces, laughing or complaining each time their times come into contact with something slimy.
Some stoop to yank up the greenery, holding it up the way fisherman hold up fish, as a conquest, waving at those less brave souls stuck on shore, dropping the item down into the white froth of the stony bottom where the slow water from the top suddenly picks up speed, thousands of small rivulets working through the scattered masonry and cropping of rocks.
Rats roam freely here, under the open mouths of drainage sewers, feeding off the dead things that accumulate in the shallows, climbing the low limbs of the trees that overhang the far side, or the mounds of trash left by cheap-scake home improvement gurus, too lazy and greedy to take the stuff to the city dump where they have to pay by the pound.
But even the fisherman don't care, dumping beer cans into the water for every fish they fail to catch, silver bodies floating beside their boats as they grow weary, each boat edging closer to the edge of the falls before they notice, and turn their engines on to creep back, beer cans left in the wake like duckling children.
Over all, the gulls scream from their loft vantage point, immune to the curses of the fisherman from whom their steal fish, immune to the rock tossing children, and the rush of waters into the rat den below, dirty gray eagles of this sad water, competing only with the sound of trucks along River Road and the whistle of the factories, and the sad music of the pickup bars, immune, too, to the sad tales the newspapers tell, of scandal in the White House and Wars in the East, floating, floating, as if without concern.

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