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The Man Who Owned the Susquehanna
Michael R. Brown

Not just laws, the vote, the country,
but trees, fish and rivers belong to us.
We do better when we live with what we do.
But when a lot of people come,
we must reckon with wives who want more,
men who want it all.

Chewing tobacco, pinups, beer‐
my habits rebuke progress.
Kids call it my river because
they think I know things nobody else does.

Farming, I studied rocks and dirt.
Railroads and coal companies schooled me.
Nuclear plants are just big hydro.
The river teaches faster.
I never get lost in the dark on it,
never get over how bright water
can suddenly split and swallow a child.

Places need watching, learning from, caring for.
Men who build dams only see Sunday picnics as PR.
They never see flocks of ducks before sunup in October,
hear ice moan on winter nights,
feel the weight of a corpse in their arms‐
reminders we can't do all we think we can.


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