Driving east along Old River Road
Following the bend of the Ohio
We drove 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati
Where the land becomes quiet,
Towns hibernating like the brown bears who used to fish here,
Waking only to explosions of industry,
A last call for prosperity.
New Richmond has made good her vistas.
Where once she built steamboats
She watches passing barges from the Riverfront Cafe
Where waitresses serve bottled beer
And pulled pork sandwiches.
Route 50 grows wide in places,
Over its cement flows rubber in roaring currents
Mocking the waterway’s silence.
Upstream the roadway’s 2 lanes trickling past
Boarded up buildings, white clapboard,
Grand mansions standing idle
Waiting for their master’s return.
Sometimes the spring coaxes the river to swallow her,
Leaving behind slime and sorrow
That covers verandas where once
Fathers of industry and abolitionists
Crossed their legs and sip Kentucky bourbon.
But on these shores of wildflowers and oaks,
She watches fish jump,
While barges pull prosperity past her.
Flatboats grown as long as the river is wide.
Old River Road rumbles under rubber and steel
Of travelers and traders carrying their wares downstream.
Two hundred years has not changed this passage,
The flight from the Ohio’s rising and falling,
The sloshing of boots in silt and sand,
While shoveling it from Town Hall’s steps.
Will New Richmond wake and join the caravan,
Or will she close her eyes,
Gently rocked to sleep in its wake.