THE OLD BRIDGE
Memories are always like this: hazy, indistinct;
I can see engineering-old time, not like its done today:
Concrete on stone footings much wider than the creek.
In the summer it barely flows, but melting snows
Make it in spring a swift freshet, drowning boulders
Otherwise exposed, and rising sometimes to within inches
Of the bridge bottom. But it always held, and holds now.
The mind is a funny thing: physical reality is unclear,
But the events of a boy’s life around the bridge are sharp;
Sharper than sharp, and focused like beams of purest light
That will remain uninvented for decades. What wonderful times!
Do you remember fishing there, catching horn-pout and perch?
And the day Andy caught that humungous bass, the one
That was unlucky enough to blunder down from the pond?
In high summer we’d shuck our clothes and jump and splash,
Sometimes diving off the big boulder in the middle.
There was always a deep spot right behind, and boy…
Was that water cold!!! Mom told us to always keep our
Clothes on, but what mothers didn’t know never hurt them.
It wasn’t as if there was a lot of traffic, and as long as you
Kept an eye out for girls, nobody minded. We felt so free!
What about all those skating parties in the winter, the games
Of swamp hockey and shinny? Or we’d make a long line and play
Crack the whip, peeling off in a million directions. One of the
Big kids would build a fire from fallen branches, and when we got cold
We could get close, and warm hands, feet and backsides. Someone
Would bring hot dogs, boil water for hot chocolate in a #10 can-
There was never a king who banqueted better in youths comradeship.
So much, so much happened around that bridge. An older me
Stole a kiss or two under it. But can a kiss be stolen actually if it
Was freely given? Those first were far sweeter than any shared since.
Time obscures. The boy I was then is still a boy. The body changes,
The mind remembers what it wants, and it still wants-fiercely.
The old bridge stands, and though how it stood then is obscure,
This old boy sees unhindered the life and the times that flow beneath.
14 June 2004