Taunton River Prose by Doug Watts

The Song of the Gift

The plates all but empty
From the Lenten meal finished
The Lord's children drew close
To sing the Song of the Gift.

Their hymnal was jarred
By a rumble not far
Cannonade coming near
Belching smoke black as tar.

With rebellion fermenting
in their minds and intestines
The men kissed their wives
and shouldered their weapons.

To the call of His Nature
And the fife song so jolly
From each tree and pasture
They discharged their volley.

The scent of the struggle
Clung like dew to the leaves.
Behind every stonewall
Could be heard muttered heaves.

From the pain in their loins
And their stained, soiled hands
They gave birth to a nation
A new name for their land.

The brown river flowed on
and all joined in communion
As the Song of the Gift
Wafted over the Union.

Two centuries later
The fish are all gone
But the Song of the Gift
Keeps playing on.

In the village once called
North Bridgewater City
Folks with brown lawns
Form blue ribbon committees.

To search every valley,
Dark swamp and clear pond.
For a new water tap
That they can turn on.

At Taunton Great River
Below Dighton Rock
They found unclaimed water
That smelled like a sock.
Informed it was foul
And tainted with salt
They said that's no problem
That's nobody's fault.

But it is, they were told, your sewage plant's old
It spoils the Salisbury Plain, once so cold.
Brimming with shad and brook trout in its holes,
Now just milk jugs and tires migrate in its flow.

What the Salisbury gives, the Matfield takes
What the Matfield sends, the Taunton must take.
By summer the algae makes carpeted mats
Coats the rocks of the riffles and fills all the flats
From Plymouth Street Bridge to the Old Taunton Weir
The fish that once lived here no longer live here.
Striped bass and sturgeon, American shad
Doesn't anyone care for the wealth we once had?

The Committee Chair gavelled the speaker to halt
He said, that's not our problem, that's nobody's fault.
Our consultants informed us, and so we believe it.
This plant as designed will meet all of our permits.

So from Dighton to Brockton the brown water goes
And back to the Matfield and Taunton it flows
To Old Dighton Rock, where the Song of the Gift
Is pumped back upstream in a hydraulic lift.
From each tap and toilet the water now flows
And from toilet to tap, in a circle it goes.


The Song of the Gift:

A Sentimental Remembrance of Ye Olde Taunton Great River --
and a Hale and Hearty Celebration of the Progress Made

By a Sub Librarian of a Sub Librarian to Queequeg T. Dog, Ph.D.

Reduced to its "atomos," the United States' Clean Water Act says "You
don't go the bathroom on your dining room floor."

Three decades after this edict was issued, it is ripe to ponder why
Americans tarried so long before enacting such etiquette into law.

Speculation may be made that from 1776 to 1976 Americans had a
fondness for fecal matter, since they struggled mightily to surround
themselves with it. With Puritan thrift and industry, they made sure
not a brook, swamp, pond, gully, river, bog, creek or cove was left
wanting for a quintal of this home grown bounty.

Perhaps this was seen as the chore of Christian Charity; of obeisance
to the Golden Rule. Each day, the stalwart settlers were greeted by
rafts of fecal flotsam, gifts of selfless love from their neighbors
in the parish above. Concerned the broth was not sufficient in
thickness, they tithed to enhance its bouquet for their brethren in
the boroughs below.

Like many voices joined together in Ye Olde Meeting House Choir, the
jetsam swelled in depth and breadth as it followed the rhythm of the
Great River's ancient flow. What began as a duet for oboe and cello
became a minuet for string quartet, then a concerto for chamber
ensemble. As trills and flourishes were added by each town along the
way, the composition ballooned into a Wagnerian Colossus of Olfactory
Aplomb, replete with gaseous Cannonade, reaching its symphonic
crescendo along the sturdy wharves at the coast far below.

As the raw umber Gift met the turning tide it was churned and pickled
by the heavy brine; drawn like delicate filigreed threads across the
fins of the fish that filled the Galilean nets at dawn. Their silver
bodies, lathered by the Gift, were gathered and packed at the docks
and shacks. Each boxed lot coated with a gill of salt, thence to the
sloops and barques and back to the pioneers above. The odiferous
particulate, resurrected and collected as "atomos" in the flesh of
freshly caught sapidissima, graced the Sabbath table at the solemn
meal of Lent. And so fortified by the Body and Spirit of the Creator,
the villagers joined at the great stone hearth of Ye Olde Meeting
House, to rejoice and sing:



A song by Doug Watts

I was born on soil soaked with blood

Where the head of King Philip was ground in the mud

By the Pilgrims of Plymouth, and their first born sons.

They put his head on a spike and let it rot in the sun.

Shackled his children and family.

Shipped them to Barbados and sold them into slavery.

Now they taught me in grade school

About the first Thanksgiving

How Massasoit and Squanto kept the Pilgrims living.

But the teachers never told us what happened next.

How the head of King Philip was chopped off at the neck.

The teachers never told us what happened next.

How the head of Pometacom was sawed off at the neck.

The teachers never told us what the Pilgrims did

To Massasoitís second son.

They put his head on a spike and let it rot in the sun.

The teachers never told us what they did

To kids who swam in the same brooks as me.

They put their legs in iron chains and sold them into slavery.


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