Crossing the Delaware

Crossing the Delaware

 

By: Noel Sloboda

 

The show on this sultry Christmas—

the hottest December on record—

draws more than one thousand

 

bystanders to the banks

of Washington Crossing. Children

in short sleeves wave

 

flags too small to include every star

and dogs shoot feral stares

from between bare knees

 

of owners who clutch

nylon leads that slenderly bind

the wild to civilization.

 

Amateur thespians out on the water

embody ancestors, choked

by cravats, chafed by wool

 

stockings and britches, writhing

like toddlers in church pews

while oars dip again and again

 

without budging the ferry.

Lips of ersatz Continentals twist

into contemporary curses

as they struggle against waves

that must not have swelled so

for George and his original crew

 

despite the majestic storm

they braved when fighting

floes, freighted with artillery

 

and uncertainty. Today’s current

surges like an arrhythmia

shaking you awake

 

in the middle of the night,

rattling your ribcage so you reach

for your heart as you never have

 

during “The Star-Spangled Banner”—

a powerful admonition for all

bearing witness to this pageant

 

that passage to the other side

always calls for equal parts

luck and faith.