Frankstown Branch

a river flows through the heart
of a nearby mountain

banks lined with sycamores
limbs luminous as moonlight

and the ghost of a canal
there just long enough

for Charles Dickens
to patronise it

now it’s a rail-trail
looked after by local farmers

and in the late autumn light
it can still transport

i watch a large black ball
float sedately downstream

mergansers flushed by a jogger
fly low over the water

under the outstretched
sycamore limbs

with their summer hunger for sun
to make more baubles

i pass an Amish man
dressed in blaze orange

taking his rifle
out for a stroll

among crumbling walls
the exuviae of bygone quarries

doorways open into
what’s left of the earth

soot-darkened soil
where Dickens saw

light gleaming off
from every thing

when he took a brisk walk
upon the towing-path

and after nightfall frowning hills
sullen with dark trees

which were sometimes angry
in one red burning spot high up

colliers turning those dark trees
into mounds of charcoal

to feed the iron furnace
its stone stack roaring

enough like a volcano
they named it Mt. Etna

so much radiance squandered
on an industrial revolution

one remnant section of canal
forms a backwater

floating leaves
still in their autumn red

suspended like memories
among reflections

i pass the former iron master’s mansion
just off the trail

its gorgeous stone work
its collapsed porch

behind me in the distance
a rifle speaks

the river runs slow
and green

***

Quotes are from Dickens’ American Notes

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