The Hudson & The Saint Lawrence

      David W. Watts


To North America’s eastern shore two rivers run, they say:

One the door to Canada, one to the U-S-A

From Ontario’s York, an inland port, to New York on the sea

You can follow the Gulf around Gaspé or take the ER-I-IE …


The Hudson and the Saint Lawrence, two countries side by side

Doors to a single continent, ports on a common tide

The waterways we live along are complementary streams

That shaped our lands and peoples, share our hopes and dreams.


In ancient times a single river emptied to the south

Draining the interior through the Mississippi’s mouth

Earth moved within her mantle: mitosis intervened

Cut a northeast passage to join the Ottawa’s stream.


Competing traders ran their wares through (these) rival ports of call:

New Amsterdam and Albany, Québec and Montreal

The seaboard of New England, the inlet of New France:

Empires built on speculation, hopes and fears and chance …


Dreams passed with generations, borders were redrawn

New England independent when fear of France had gone

Laurentia stayed loyal, became a haven for

English from the south who fled, homeless from the war.


An unseen baker rolled out the continental dough

In two great lumps and baked one first to see how it would grow:

Held the other in reserve for about a hundred years

To learn from the first’s experience, hopes and dreams and tears …


Beyond the Rockies two great rivers run a parallel course

One ends below the border, the other to the north:

One’s been harnessed many times, the other still runs free

And shows a way for those who need a passage to the sea:


The Columbia and Fraser, two pathways to the tide

Doors to a single continent on the Pacific side:

The great northwestern waterways are contrapuntal streams

That shaped our lands and peoples, share our hopes and dreams.


Above the Arctic Circle, below the midnight sun

Two northern rivers to the Bering and the Beaufort run

One rises in the Yukon, then through Alaska bends

The other’s straight and seemed a disappointment at its end.


The Yukon and  Mackenzie, two pathways side by side

Passing through the Arctic, where the ocean has no tide:

All rivers and their waterways are tributary streams

That shape Earth’s lands and peoples, sharing hopes and dreams.