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A Canal Street Drink

The following poem, titled “A Canal Street Drink” is loosely adapted from an 1800’s Erie Canal folk song whose author is unknown. Poet Scott Bottoni sent it along to recognize the 185th anniversary of Buffalo’s incorporation as a city, which officially occurred on April 20th, 1832. The poem received a second place Audience Prize award in February at the Just Buffalo Literary Center’s annual Members’ Writing Contest. 

A Canal Street Drink

We were loaded down with barley
And the crew was chock-full up on rye
When the captain looked straight at me
With his gol-durned wicked eye
 
He said sailor let me tell you
About this place that you’ll soon be
It’s got the wickedest street in the world
And it lies waiting for you and me
 
Oh, Lake Erie was a risin’
And the gin was gettin’ low
And I scarcely think
We’ll get a drink
‘Till we get to Buffalo
‘Till we get, to Buffalo
 
It’s where canalers and lakers tangle
It’s an infected human haze
The heartbeat of an outlaw city
It’s deadly knives and whiskey ways
 
Where one bad swing can bury a man
Just as sure as the tick of a clock
In a dank and musty alley
Or on a blood splashed towpath dock
 
Oh, the crew was gettin’ restless
As the ship rocked to and fro
And I scarcely think
We’ll get a drink
‘Till we get to Buffalo
‘Till we get, to Buffalo
 
There’s conmen and crooks with nothin’ to lose
Pimps and bawds in barrooms and bordellos
He said a life isn’t worth much
In this denizen of tawdry fellows
 
And those Buffalo gals, holes in their stockings
Will be sure to come out tonight
‘Cause Canal Street drips with every vice
Brothels, dives and gamblin’ nights
 
Oh, the tales we’ll one day tell
Of the sins that we will sow
And I scarcely think
We’ll get a drink
‘Till we get to Buffalo
‘Till we get, to Buffalo
 
Where the only law is fearlessness
And pious virtues are trampled like dust
All are consumed by the nostrils of hell
While beggin’ for mercy and someone to trust
 
And then that old sea-dog barked
That this city could change a man
‘Cause a soul is forever tattooed
By the place where life’s choices began
 
Oh, how those grain silos close around us
As our ship glides smooth and slow
And now I know
We’re gonna get that drink
When we get to Buffalo
When we get, to Buffalo….

Written by BRo Guest Authors

BRo Guest Authors

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