When the federal government required the mills of Cohoes to hire “colored”
workers or lose war contracts, the mills relented but Cohoes maintained its
segregation. Workers of color settled across the river in North Troy.
I cross the rivers people crossed to get to work: Hudson
then Mohawk coming, Mohawk
then Hudson going.
I can’t feel it: river as moat, bridge as fence, labor as white
privilege; can’t hate Cohoes the way red-lined lives
must have hated
The day I moved in a Black girl of five or six stopped to chat
and chatting asked, “Will you live here
the rest of your life?”
invited, invoked. Oh shaded streets! Oh confluence of rivers
great and great! Her mother and I touched glances
over her head in silent, cynical assessment:
is no place to live a whole life. But didn’t dappled shade,
enthusiastic child, even silent, cynical
Scenic Cohoes, I felt this yes.