Hanging Out on the Old Croton Aqueduct
Dobbs Ferry, the early 1970’s
The last thing we thought of was water but
long pipes to The City were still there, buried
beneath a grassy trail that led only to itself,
really. It was Middle Earth, or pen and ink
drawings from an old children’s book, with
round stone towers barely taller than we were,
like toy castles. Someone had heard they were
ventilators left over from 1840 and always
said so as we passed them. Then we all knew it
and forgot about them. What we drank was
beer, or when we were stupid, Southern Comfort,
which was like swallowing pine cones instead
of kicking them as we walked. Twenty-six
miles from The Bronx to The Dam, in Croton.
No one jogged then, so no adults—except for
someone mowing the shady back yard of his own
enormous house in Irvington. He ignored us,
we him. Back behind Mercy College, past the
nuns’ cemetery with its Stations of the Cross,
each sad and holy scene set in what looked like
a bird house. I found them beautiful and knew
better than to say so. We never walked the
whole trail. It could have been a foreign country,
even endless. Home from college, our guitars
dangling upside down over our shoulders.
We’d end up at Jimmie’s, order manicotti,
baked clams, Chianti in a rattan basket. And
my brother wiped everyone’s plate clean with a
heel of Italian bread. So the chef came out and
pounded his shoulder. You’re a good boy! he said.
Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses imagery to convey nostalgia and to compress a childhood into a few lines. At the end, even if you’ve never been to the Croton Aqueduct, you find yourself nodding along because you’ve done all of these things, either in this life or the next.