In a city of two rivers
in a hotel of five storeys
love was kindled in a fire
long neglected but not out.
You should know this city
was once a center of commerce
furs down from the north
and herds of cattle up from Texas.
You should know this man
and woman had a history
their parents were at war once
bridges built were burned.
Down canyon up stream
they came out of wildernesses
from childhoods of separation
on to colleges of emptiness.
On a certain wet day
a date was set and stretched
the two of them mostly meant
to end a mutual famine.
When they had been of an age
to marry barriers were put up like
dams against the double-forked
flow down from the mountains.
Instead homes were purchased
on the opposite sides of town
where their appointed social circles
lifted them and brought them down.
Two hundred or more years
ago two centers of power arose
in these parts one industrial
the other nurtured by the earth.
Such monuments of reputation
were the landmarks by which we
plotted out our urban geography
two poles two surnames.
She wore hers like a string of pearls
tradition a hemline a neckline a gem.
His was a buck up on the wall
perfectly preserved but silent.
Too bad their put-off rendezvous
wilted like the lilies in the lobby
all white will brown whenever you
desire to go against the grain.
They buried the gentleman in lies
saying both evil and good
depending on present company
or where you fell in pedigree.
The no longer young or beautiful
woman rescued by her family
retired from life in public moving
to the suburbs without ceremony.
It was two generations later
what was not to be would be
renacted without the tragedy
by grandchildren free of memory.
You are who you are unless bent
or straightened out or pitted against
the currents below the tributaries
may or may not let you marry.