Literary Hook: Finding the beauty in bridges

Christine Swanberg
Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet


My first memory of them is the Lincoln Bridge

that glides over the Illinois River in LaSalle-Peru,

a stretch between the coal mines of Spring Valley

and the green, leafy canopies of elms

of the rich Northern city, where my father

escaped to find a better life. Forgive me —

I have always been thankful for his choice

not to live amongst the tree-barren shanties

of coal towns, mean old men, and small minds.

I, too, have no wish to return.

The bridge and the wide expanse of water

remain the only beauty I carry from that bleak place.

Yet, I still seek bridges away from my northern city

where the elms were slaughtered, canopies collapsed,

each and every one. Bridges stretch like hope,

transitions to a place you must go to save yourself.

When you find you are in some sad space,

think about the bridges you have already tread.

In the Ticino small, stone Roman bridges arch

over blue pools of mountain waters that rush

each spring when snow gushes from peaks.

In summer languid bathers stretch on rocks

beneath such bridges, the air so fresh and clean

it frees the breath. The Bridge of Lions crests

over the Matanzas River in St. Augustine,

where dolphins dance near boats with black sails.

Invoke the bridges you have known

when you seem stuck on a confounding shore.

Recall them: small bridges on winding roads

where only one car can pass at a time, or

magnificent bridges like the ones you find

in great cities. Call upon the one that stands

foremost above your mind’s winding rivers.

Ask that bridge for the answer you seek.

See how it carries you on its sleek, steel spine?

Know that no matter how tense and turbulent

the waters spin, you want to keep living in a world

where bridges keep their promises:

they take you to the place you need to go.

First published in Jane’s Stories and in The Alleluia Tree.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

Posted April 2, 2014

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