save the river

by Aaron Jafferis

I live in Fair Haven, a little two-block
walk up from the Quinnipiac River canoe dock
where I have never witnessed an actual canoe dock
but if you’re a huge flock o’ duck, duck, goose, that’s the new spot!
and I will sit and stare from that canoe dock in mute shock
as six pairs of mute swans swim whimsical circles
like a white Salvador Dali drooped clock
and an osprey folds its wings like an awkward dew drop
and falls into water sometimes clean enough for a few hawk
to fish in, and this canoe dock is where Mother Nature, God and Buddha cock
their great ears to listen to this poet’s angst,
and each day I’m alive, I tell the river I owe it thanks
‘cause it calms and silences me. I mean non-violences me.

See my parents met in the New Haven Hiking Club,
and since it was between these two types of love
(New Haven and nature) that I was conceived, or at least conceived of,
I grew up in this city trying to be thug
and simultaneously tree-hug,
fake a go-away type face so I wouldn’t be taken
for a wee scrub who might be mugged
while at the same time stay open enough
to love nature and people and be loved.

And maybe it’s in the nature of people to pre-judge,
or maybe it’s just me who likes to be smug and say
“He’s the type to be thug and she’s the type to tree-hug
and we love nature but those people put the present ‘me’ above
the future ‘we’ –
those people see a river and can only conceive of
a haven to breed bugs, so they deliver trash into it
and that housing project is a bad influence
and those ghetto-ass fishermen’s trash ruins
my canoe dock’s beautiful natural viewin’s
and why don’t you join our save-the-river movements”

and my self-righteous self-white, just interior monologue
that was mentally cleaning trash from this canoe dock
might have lasted ‘til like two o’clock before it ran outta gas
when this young Puerto Rican fisherwoman arrives and actually,
matter-of-factually picks up the trash,
says she and her uncle have been doing it since the city stopped or forgot,
then hustles up a few oysters and a mussel from under some canoe dock concrete block or rock
breaks ‘em open, hands ‘em to me, and as I suck the raw meat down in shock
because I thought shellfish in New Haven could only be gotten at Stop n Shop,
I remember there’s many people higher than me on the environmentalist curve
who are not on the environmental list-serve
and who cleans the canoe dock? She and me and you do,
and if we don’t join that woman’s movement, we’re all gonna be in deep doo-doo.

  • “Critic’s Choice. With the raw spirit of the hard-hitting ‘Kingdom’... rap, Latin sounds and razor-edged rock tap into pure blasts of emotion, like a needle dropped straight on the brain. A bold step forward for the Globe.” – San Diego Union-Tribune
  • About Aaron

    Aaron Jafferis is a hip hop poet and playwright. Read his bio, his CV, or contact him.