The Hudson

Before I became her darling I towed wrecked machines down the river behind my rowboat. Any kind of wreck you’ve got. My arms pumping like greasy engines. One night when I was ashore, Grace picked me out of a crowd. She said, Hey Samson, or whoever you are. We got close very fast, meeting in Tribeca at night for drinks after I tied up my boat. Then we’d stroll north toward Cassiopeia and Hercules. One night we crossed over the East River by a bridge that she said no one used anymore.

What does she see in me, I wondered, what are we about?

Grace said, Darling put those silly oars away, set the clock for yesterday. Come here. Don’t look at me that way or I’ll put more stars in your solitude.

Poe knew that bridge, by the way. There is a drawing of him, miserably cold, crossing it one night in the snow. Maybe he was already beyond himself with loss.

One of the wrecks I towed down river was Buddy Holly’s plane, bobbing along, black and snow-covered. Another was Patsy Cline’s, and Johnny Horton’s car. And once I towed Poe’s desk, all of them down the river under the eyes of night, out the harbor to the ocean. And there I cut them loose, and they rolled over and sank like walruses full of bowling balls. Once I towed my old car, my Chevy II Nova, which also was a dead loss.

I felt strong, my biceps growing like wrecking balls, rowing and towing.

Darling, Grace said, stop towing those old wrecks and row my dreams, merrily, merrily, you know perfectly well what I mean.

I had fallen in love in that car, the Nova, probably three times. And once I drove it out to a barn to help a farmer deliver a breach-birth calf. This is what love gets you, the farmer said as we mopped up the blood. In fact I have towed a number of cows out to sea. Well, bulls too. And finally—I’m not kidding—the farmer.

Darling, be reasonable, Grace said. Stop this awful rowing. But I could not.

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