TR (ANNC): Up and down the Ohio they push their barges (LONG BOAT HORN) delivering wheat, coal, pig iron to the industrial east'but who are they really? Do we know? -- Join us for... Men on the River. (BOAT HORN)
(TUGBOAT PILOTHOUSE INTERIOR, ENGINE)
TR: How's it going, Captain?
GK: Cincinnati straight ahead, two miles, 13 degrees off the port bow, and we should make Maysville by sun-up and Portsmouth by noon.
TR: Not so many little boats out on the river this year. One advantage of a bad economy. You don't have to worry so much about the weekenders.
TR: Something wrong , Captain?
GK: Always something wrong, isn't there?
TR: Something's eating at you. Spit it out. You and me been pushing barges up and down the Ohio for twenty-five years now. Out with it.
GK: It's this new deckhand you signed on. I wish you'd asked me first.
TR: What's wrong with him?
GK: He doesn't talk like a boatman. And he holds his cigarette funny.
TR: Well, he seemed okay to me.
GK: SHHHH, here he comes-- (DOOR CREAKS OPEN) (SHUTS) (FOOTSTEPS)
BC: Evening, Captain.
GK: Evening, mate.
BC: What you see out there?
GK: Cincinnati. A river bend. What do you see?
BC: Angelheaded hipsters.
GK: That all?
BC: Also a red wheelbarrow
glazed with rainwater
beside the white chickens.
GK: I see.
BC: And Suzanne.
GK: Who was she?
BC: She took me down to her place by the river and she fed me tea and oranges that came all the way from China And I touched her perfect body with my mind.
GK: She must've been crazy to take you down to her place.
BC: She was half-crazy.
GK: And oranges don't come from China.
BC: Hers did.
GK: You're making it up.
BC: She had a perfect body and her place was by the river. In the woods, which were lovely, dark, and deep.
GK: She was crazy, if you ask me. Anyway, we're on a boat. Don't care about woods. (STATIC)
FN (ON CB): Big Boy, this is 409. Come in, Big Boy.
GK: Four-oh-nine, this is Big Boy. I read you.
FN: I saw the best (GARBLED IN STATIC)
GK: I don't read you, 409. (STATIC)--Well-- Anyway, we're making good time. Coming up on Cincy. Not much traffic. Good night.
BC: Don't go gentle into that good night.
GK: Why not?
BC: Because old age should burn and rave at close of day.
GK: You talking about me?
BC: Yes, you should rage, rage against the dying of the light.
BC: You get old, and Suzanne isn't going to take you to her place by the river.
GK: You sure know how to get on my nerves, mister.
TR: Better catch some more shuteye, mister. You're not on watch for three more hours.
BC: So you're saying I've got miles to go before I sleep?
GK: No, he's saying you've got miles to go when you can sleep.
BC: But what about the promises to keep?
GK: Well, if you promise to shut up, you can stand here and watch the river. Or the red wheelbarrow.
BC: How about the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
and the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox?
GK: You know, I don't think I want you steering this boat, mister? What's your name, by the way?
BC: Richard Cory.
GK: Oh boy. Al, why'd you hire this guy? Why?
TR: Well, I looked at him. He was a gentleman from sole to crown, clean favored--
BC: -- and imperially slim.
GK: Slimness is not a qualification for working on boats. Look around you.
BC: Imperially slim.
GK: That neither.
TR: And he glittered when he walked.
GK: He glittered when he walked.
TR: I thought we could put him out on deck in a fog and it'd be like running lights. (STATIC)
FN (ON CB): Big Boy, it's 409. Come in, Big Boy. (STATIC)
GK: Read you loud and clear, 409.
FN (ON CB): Big Boy, I'm seeing a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater and some white chickens.
GK: In the river? Over.
FN (ON CB): Sort of over the river. Over.
GK: You need to think about your drinking, 409.
FN (ON CB): And there's a hydrogen jukebox dead ahead.
GK: I'm not interested, 409. Over. Turn the radio off, Al.
TR: I did. There. It's off. (STATIC)--
GK: Where's the channel buoy, Al?
TR: Should be up ahead a quarter mile.
GK: I don't see it.
BC: It's up near the hydrogen jukebox.
GK: Put a lid on it, Mr. Cory. Better yet, go home and put a bullet through your head.
BC: Eventually. Not now. Right now I want to look at the jukebox and the birches.
GK: What birches?
BC: The birches that bend to left and right across the lines of straighter darker trees. Some kid's been swinging them.
GK: But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. You've seen them,
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.
BC: I have --I've seen their trunks arching in the woods
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
GK: Nothing about girls at all. It's ice storms do that. Anybody knows that.
BC: I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter.
GK: Boys didn't do that to those birch trees. Ice storms did.
BC: Maybe angelheaded hipsters did it.
GK: Look, forget about birches. I'm trying to steer six barges heading up the Ohio river in the dark. I've got things on my mind.
BC: One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
TR: Captain, I saw something on your starboard side-- Look. (CHICKENS IN PASSING) A red wheelbarrow. (FN CHANTING WITH TABLA AND SITAR) And what looks to me like angel-headed hipsters.
GK: I've got miles to go, Al. Don't bother me with a lot of nonsense. (BARGE HORN, OFF) Whoops. Steer clear there. Hang on. (STRAINS AT SQUEAKY WHEEL). There we go.
BC: A close one.
GK: Plenty of room.
BC: You almost hit that casino riverboat.
GK: Wasn't even close.
FN (ON CB): Come in, Big Boy. Four-oh-nine here.
GK: Yeah, 409, come in.
FN (ON CB): There's a place up here by the river.
GK: What about it?
FN (ON CB): A lady named Suzanne.
GK: What about her?
FN (ON CB): She's got a nice body. (GARBLED IN STATIC)
GK: You know something? Everyone on this river is crazy except me.
BC: Suzanne wasn't crazy. Just about me. Boy o boy. She was lovely in her bones and when small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them, and when she moved, she moved more ways than one.
GK: Don't talk dirty, okay? I'm a captain, I've got to concentrate on steering these barges upriver. That's my job.
BC: Mind if I ask what sort of cargo we're hauling?
GK: Got poetry anthologies.
BC: A bargeload of poetry?
GK: A hundred eighty tons of poetry anthologies heading upriver.
BC: What anthology?
GK: It's called My Pants are Too Tight and Other Poems.
BC: Is it good poetry?
GK: Somebody thought so.
BC: Which poets?
GK: All the biggies. Frost, Stevens, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Hughes, Williams, Kumin, Sexton, Oliver, Keillor.
BC: Never heard of him.
GK: Very big now. But among younger people, so that's why you wouldn't be aware of him.
BC: What does he write?
GK: Poems. Sonnets.
BC: Huh. Never heard of him.
GK: Ask Suzanne about him.
BC: He knew Suzanne?
GK: He knew Suzanne when she was young and beautiful. He was way ahead of you in line.
TR: How about a poet named Billy Collins? Is he in there?
FN (ON CB): Big boy, there's a woman in a boat (STATIC GIBBERISH) ... .mile below the birches (STATIC GIBBERISH)
GK: Billy Collins'Who's he?
TR: Poet. New York.
GK: Poet named Billy? There's evangelists named Billy and ballplayers and nightclub singers. No poets.
TR: Very popular, from what I hear. And he was poet laureate.
GK: Poet laureate of what? Teaneck, New Jersey?
TR: Poet laureate of the United States.
GK: Must've just sat around on his laurels then. Never heard of him.
BC: There was Billy Collins the bantamweight champion in the late Thirties. He had very quick hands. They called him the Human Hummingbird of Death and Destruction.
GK: Before my time.
BC: Hey, look over there-- (CREAKING, WHOOPING) Boys swinging on birch trees. (FLIGHT OF BOY INTO RIVER) And chickens. (SFX)
GK: You'd better take that gun and go home, Mr. Cory.
BC: The name isn't Cory, it's Collins, Captain. (SPINS CYLINDER). And this right here is Mr. Samuel Colt. I am a pistol-packin poet, and I just want to say, --Captain! my Captain! your fearful trip is done.--
GK: What do you want, Collins?
BC: What don't I want-- I want it all. I want money and fame, I want beautiful women, I want jazz, I want angel-headed hipsters and I want to swing on birches.
SS: Hi. Somebody mention beautiful women? I'm Suzanne. Want to come to my place by the river?
BC: Sure do, babes.
SS: How do you like my body?
BC: It's perfect.
SS: You care for tea and oranges?
BC: Love some.
SS: And I've got plums. Cold and delicious. In my icebox. Want to touch my body with your mind?
BC: Love to. How about I push you around in a red wheelbarrow and play you some songs from a hydrogen jukebox?
SS: I'll be waiting. At my place.
BC: By the river.
SS: I'll be there.
BC: See you round, Captain.
FN (ON CB): Big Boy, Big Boy, this is 409, waiting here by the birch trees... (STATIC) Over. (GIBBERISH, STATIC)
GK: On our way, 409. On our way.
TR: You gonna let him get away with it, Captain? Walk away with the girl? And the tea and oranges?
GK: It's okay, Al. We've got a load of poetry to deliver (HISS).
TR: It's smoke coming out of the hydrogen jukebox, Captain.
GK: C'mon, let's push it overboard before it blows.
TR: Okay. (FOOTSTEPS, STRAINING, CREAKING, HISSING)
GK: Hurry. It's just about to blow. Over-- (STRAIN AND PUSH AND BIG SPLASH. TWO BEATS. THEN BIG UNDERWARD EXPLOSION)
TR (ANNC): Up the mighty Ohio they go (SFX), carrying cargo to the little towns along the way and giving quarter to no man... Men on the River.