The Unknown River Driver


100_3770In Foster’s Field where the loggers bunk
along the river, “Saurdnahunk”
in morning mist a stranger stood
out from the northern mystic wood-
A long shaft peavey in his hand
and cleated feet- A stout young man.
He hoped they would agree to hire
him on as a chief river driver
so he inquired without one word
by joining them in their labour.

They’d never seen one come and go
from drifting logs to bateau-
so reckless or so brave
upon the river’s rapid wave.

Solemnity had left its trace
of somberness upon his face
so noone dared to ask his name
or ask from where the young man came.
He worked the river just one week.
They never even heard him speak
except for in the deepest sleep-
He’d moan his lover’s name, and weep.

On that last night the southern winds
brought rain to the snow capped mountains.
The waters rose and began to dam
around the massive logger’s jam.
Not one in Foster’s Field would dare
walk out onto the torrent’s snare
and brave waters rising higher
except for the unknown driver.

The men stood idly and forlorn
Then came a lulling of the storm
Distant cried a lonely loon
as he took up his pickeroon-
danced across the trembling timber
as though He were the Saint Peter.
He knew just which log to dislodge
to bring them all down in barrage
Not for drowning did he sink
Swift timbers hurled him in the drink.

When they pulled him from the swell
his looming death was plain to tell
The young man, with a gesture weak,
made motion as if he would speak
He only spoke his lover’s name
The last word that he spoke was “Jayne.”
When his voice spoke this final call
some standing by swore that they saw
Pamola swooping in the wind
to bare his soul to Katahdin.

There between the road and river
they dug a grave for the young driver.
Two pork barrels formed the basket
of his modest wooden casket.
Though his soul was born away
his body rests there to this day-
A monument in Baxter’s park-
A ballad for a broken heart.