#26

As I said in the first entry, the poet Kenneth Koch means a lot to me because he had connections to both Ohio and New York. These two, my adopted and home state, have influenced my own writing, as well. In the collection New Addresses, each poem is Koch’s message to various recipients.

“To the Ohio”, is the author’s heartfelt feelings about the Ohio River, which creates the state’s southern border, shared with Kentucky. It is a reflection piece on his memories of growing up in Ohio, as well as the relationship between the two adjacent states. I love the sincerity Koch imbues in all of his work, but this one especially. The places we live have such an impact on who we become. While I may have switched the order of residencies, I really identify with his viewpoint and this poem speaks to me.

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TO THE OHIO

You separated my hometown from Kentucky
And south of us you deftly touched Indiana. Ohioans drove back over
you
With lower-priced (untaxed) beer and Bourbon in the trunks
Of their cars to take to Cincinnati and
Less expensively than with Ohio purchases. In my teenage years
I drove over you in the other direction–to Campbell County–
To gamble, to the Hotel Licking to look at the pretty young
prostitutes, and drink six-point-seven-percent Hudepohl Beer.
Your heyday had come when I was ten. We were down in the basement
To see if you were there yet. You flooded! You overflowed banks!
Everything was wet
For miles around. You were in the papers, trees stood in you up to
their faces. Men rowed
Boats from one side of a street to another. Doctors
Ran around the city giving typhoid shots. I kept a scrapbook
A big one, of newspaper coverage of you
That was so much admired for its pasted-on white and pink clippings
I was happy about it for a month.
You reappeared beneath the Island Queen–five years later–
Which steamed up you to an amusement park–Coney Island,
Named after the one in New York–with Kentucky on your other side.
Leaning over the rail, I looked at it and you, a muddy divider
Between wild good times and the regular life, Kentucky and Ohio–
From one you took your name, and from the other, then, your
meaning.

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