The great steamship Arabia was built here in Brownsville, the city that dies beside the Monongahela River, the city where my own journey begins. I will float a thousand miles to Cairo, faring better, I hope, than Arabia, which disappeared in Missouri mud in 1856. More than a century later, when the ship was found, the trappings of daily life were intact: cooking pots, shoes, flasks, and pipes. But where the beloved? This human sadness, no one is immune. Even Ryokan sleeps with his sleeves turned back to show his grief. And, traveling by boat, Princess Kagami once said, “Even a breeze may fail me when I desire it.” And now my own boat is ready. I push off. Out there: remnants of the Teays, salt licks where mammoths died beneath the muck, earth tombs of the mound builders.
a coal train clattering
on the tracks