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