They Tore The Bridge Down a Year Later
I found her in a blue dress
beneath the old wooden bridge
with ropes round her wrists,
her neck, her ankles.
It’s how we would tie a hog,
when there was money
for that type of thing.
Her hair was perfect
but, by the time Powell got her to Texas,
her dress looked like it had caught
the wrong side of a horse.
A year later the new bridge goes up.
All clean cable and wire,
so the cars can drive too fast
and my boy and I can’t sit there,
let the water pass.
As a kid, I’d rest on the splintered rail, protected
in the strong shade of the cyprus pines,
drop pennies or spit onto the frogs of Cow Creek
back when the water ran clear.
But they said a good car couldn’t cross it.
So I guess the children
who used to throw pennies, spit,
had to find something new.
I still see the old bridge,
pennies rusting in water.
I remember they told me
Falyssa Van Winkle was ten
and she got raised
a little north of here.
They said she went to buy peanuts
at some flea market in Beaumont
and her mother watched Falyssa go,
kept hawking clay ashtrays
and heavy magnifying glasses;
nothing fancy, just stuff
people sometimes need.
Five hours later Falyssa
was under the bridge I used to spit off
and Powell was cleaning his mobile home,
readying to drive north.
Nowadays I don’t pass the creek much.
There is no reason to walk my quiet boy
across metal into Louisiana.
If the bridge I knew still stood
maybe I could bring him down,
tell him the lawn can wait. Tell him
his father wants to pass the time,
make him talk.
But the bridge is not there any more.
Somebody told me Powell made it
into the papers, said his last words
were, “I am ready for my blessing.”
And Falyssa’s bag of salted peanuts
has run down, met the big river.
That last thing of hers,
heading for the ocean.
First published in Northwords Now (2008), revised for Oxford Poets 2010: An Anthology and collected in Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, 2010.