the ladder is locked
the watchtower is closed, a relic of yesteryear’s community
yet still there are the watchmen, turning their blue collars up to the wind
sucking on cancer sticks, sticking drugs and chemicals in their veins
dropping ten years just like their fathers did, though the method’s changed
painting their lungs and livers black right there beside the tracks
tracks that no longer carry trains to and from cities; cities that never did care
they haven’t yet begun to cry out to the Goddess of Death
but everything about them cries out to her,
Nuestra Senora de al Santa Muerte, and she’s coming, though the trains never will
I can smell the death blowing up on southerly winds
fanned by a jet-fuel exhaust stink
while we stare gape-mouthed, agape as it were,
in the face of an inheritance that is flash-forward tribalism
the ladder is locked
the promise of progress is forgotten
while the lesser sons and daughters of empire,
the disinherited ones, stare not off into the distance
watching for trains that never will come
About the Poem
In 2017, Eric Adriaans decided to write a series of poems based on local culture, landmarks and locations in St. Thomas, Ontario. Conceptually the series is titled the St. Thomas Suite and may form the basis of an upcoming printed collection. Other poems in the series include:
- St. Thomas New Year’s Ghost Story
- Magnolia at Sunset
- Lilacs After A Spring Rain
The BX Tower was built in as a watchtower to reduce the probability of rail accidents in the busy rail community. The brick tower was built in 1910 and remains a unique historic feature of St. Thomas. Learn about the St. Thomas BX Tower.
The poem was conceived and composed within 60 yards of the rail-lines which continue to bisect the town of St. Thomas, Ontario and a two-minute walk from the BX Tower itself.
Like St. Thomas New Year’s Ghost Story, the poem explores the contrast between St. Thomas’ early history as a thriving industrial/rail community and its current status as a struggling small Canadian city.
The poem begins with a current observation of a locked tower and quickly alternates between contrasting images of the community’s watchfulness in the past and present and finally a watchfulness which does not appear to look into the future.
Nuestra Senora de al Santa Muerte was included to highlight a current local culture which is influenced by drugs, global culture and new institutions which rise when old institutions are no longer adequate to respond to the needs and experiences of a community.
BX Tower began with a photo (at right) of a feature of the BX Tower in St. Thomas, Ontario. Eric Adriaans had been interested in photographing brick architecture for several years. In this photo, a ladder for climbing to the top of the small building was closed-off by a metal mesh cover and locked. The notion of this locked ladder led to a hand-written list of words, ideas and images that this locked ladder might represent. This list was then transcribed to a digital word processing file and extended into blank-verse lines.
References and Citations
All content on www.ericadriaans.com, the Erickipedia, is updated and revised based on new information, further consideration, reader feedback and whim. To recommend updates, provide feedback or comment please use the contact and feedback form.
- Original draft: June 8, 2018
- Updated June 12, 2018
- Updated June 14, 2018