They arrived from the North after 10pm or so,
with a tiny crew guiding the vessel into the little harbor.
Thousands of tons of iron ore hidden in the hull.
The tug boat appeared magically,
strings of lights out-lining her shape,
glowing sprightly, reds and yellows and whites.
A joyful blast of her worn horn announced to the whole town, “She’s here!”
Shortly, men in identical overalls and ethic caps appeared, unshaven, adrenalin and testosterone and endorphins,
slapping backs and wiry hugs,
every hand gripping a Stanley Thermos, the companion in this trade.
Most had arrived in one of the several great migrations with hopes not possible in the worn out villages they left behind.
Beside the dark vessel four angular arms on shore descended,
flexing like Octopus arms into the deep wombs,
Arms lit with starry strings of light, glowing
as the arms creaked and scraped
with the power of Popeye’s can of spinach.
After hundreds of tons pounded into the waiting line of ore cars,
The silence was eerie.
The black iron horse, invisible in the shadows,
Send a forward jolt with fierce force,
A bone cracking rippled down one car after another,
Shaking the earth,
the massive Octopus arms,
Rocking the behemoth
Moored against the curving dock.
Do doubt remained: “Time to leave.”
Exhausted bodies sauntered and then
collapsed into worn out automobiles.
Out of the shadows the train pulled the unrehearsed voices,
Grinding wheels against rails, twisting locks between cars
Until turning the corner
As did the red tail lights into clouds of black dust,
Leaving the stillness of the brightly outlined Octopus arms behind.
The lumbering train led the way with one eye rotating
Reading the path ahead through the darkness of night to a waiting Pittsburg.
In those years at the first sound of the tug boat
I was a young boy eager to drag his dad out of bed.
Pleading, I had to capture the magic of
the blurring lights reaching into the black holds.
Captivated by the creaks and scraping and grinding music,
excited to see my photographs of these holy mysteries,
hundreds of my neighbors,
immigrants from an exotic place called Sicily,
so lucky and happy to move America, their new home.
The stars and tiny lights floating in the oceanic black night of Love,
A mystery of rhythms and loyalties I depended on,
Everywhere in my town I was on solid ground, I thought.
So many memories pulsing like waves within
Appearing, unexpectedly, in the rhythm and chaos of stars and
tiny lights of Harrisburg, January first, 6:30 am,
12 degrees, 30 knots of wind, and clear, clean air.
We lay down our memories unconsciously,
in an order amidst chaos
we cannot explain--
But for all of us, memories vibrate love and joy, sadness and loss,
heartbreak and forgiveness.
Always, and sometimes more so, in unfathomable ways,
memories resonate like tuning forks
Catching our easily distracted attention and holding us still.
And the rich giftedness of our lives awakens us like the Buddha’s
awakening to the fullness of life,
Like those memorable, humbling paradoxes about a different Way to live
Jeshuah passed on from his own inherited, resonating memory.
When something like a tuning fork vibrates so much
I am awakened in a new way.
I do best to put everything aside and be still and listen.
There is mystery in this moment, calling out to touch and love.
I’ll bet you do something similar when the wave passes through you
and resonances awaken within.
I no longer have those first photographs.
I did not cherish those memories and those photographs as I do today.
The photograph of Harrisburg at night across a still Susquehanna River,
The midnight, moonlit mist near Beaver Run,
Do sing down in my heart of a trust and confidence that endure.
John Holliger ©2014