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October 24, 2013

There is a river

Springing in the Blue Ridge,

Spilling over waterfalls,

Filling man made lakes,

Descending the foothills,

Meandering, merging, and converging

In the Piedmont,

Flowing through the Lowcountry,

Into the ocean.

There is a road,

Early Indian trail,

Rutted wagon route,

Then tarred and graveled,

Paved with asphalt,

Widened and improved,

Now rising, then dipping,

To a concrete bridge

Crossing the river.

There is a railroad,

Ribbon of steel,

Twin tracks on cross ties,

Guiding locomotives, once steam, now diesel,

Pulling coal cars, boxcars, and caboose,

Lonesome whistles echo,

Trains rumble over trestle,

Rails lifted on stone columns,

Towering above the river.

There is a mill,

Nestled in the hills,

Off the road, beyond the tracks, beside the river,

Where whitewater flowed freely,

Spilled over rocky shoals,

But the river was dammed,

To harness her power,

To spin cotton into thread,

To weave thread into cloth.

There are people,

Living on the hills, near the river, near the mill,

Who lifted the bales, spun the thread, wove the cloth,

Drove trucks, loaded trains,

Giving blood, sweat, and tears,

Until the mill shut down,

Leaving the river dammed,

And the people damned,

Lives unraveling like culled cloth.

There is a church,

On top of the hill, near the mill, above the river,

A preacher droning,

“There is a river that makes glad the city of God.”

The people know, in the valley below,

There is a river that makes sad the people of God,

They sing of another time and place,

“In the Sweet By-and-By,”

“Shall We Gather at the River.”

There are people,

Who owned the mill,

As their family before them,

Secure on a hill, away from the mill, beyond the river,

On the other side of the tracks,

Troubled by the memory

Of people by the river,

Praying for them, longing with them,

For peace like a river.

There is a chasm,

Between the hills, near the mill

Mill owners and mill hands, haves and have-nots,

Shedding tears of remorse into the rift,

A winter rain falls,

As if heaven were weeping,

Raindrops mingled with teardrops,

Flowing together into the deep,

And there is a river.

Kirk H. Neely

Clifton Mill #2

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