What is History if Not a River?

I sit atop

the cliffs of Palisades Park.

Before me, the great

Hudson of history, the gateway

of unbounded potential, once believed

to be the muscular mouth

of the Northwest Passage.

All about me

are the monuments of Empire, past

and always present. For the passing of one

will forever mark the rise

of another. Forever


And the eternal turning

of the tide

is seen here still

as captured English cannons

hold their silent vigil, above

barges laden with the New America’s

garbage and gasoline.


is Harlem, at once radiant

and decayed home

to the newly freed masses of the Reconstruction, Renaissance

dreams deferred and self-determination.

Newly sprung Empires,

their citadels downtown,

enact the timeless, merciless rituals

and stake a further claim

on the colonies upriver.

And in the whisper

of the wide and muddy waters,

barely audible

above sirens, helicopters, intercontinental flights, the screams and cries

of humanity in ecstasy and terror,

is the plaintive, immutable song

of the Mahican,



What is history

if not a river,

a sacred, violent passage?

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Warren Charles Tanner’s story.