The Bridges to April by Susan Elbe29 May 2017, Posted by Poetry in
THE BRIDGES TO APRIL
We’ve all got coughs, January rattles that won’t quit.
Our necks wrapped in warm scarves
against the cold night, we trail
one by one into the ill-lit bar.
Some let oysters and cold beer slide
down their raw throats. Some want smooth
brandy on the rocks and steamed
mussels in a broth of winter’s melting.
We’re all flush-faced, heated by
the burn of wasabi mayo,
the finger-licking salt of pommes frites.
Ungloved, unwrapped, unzipped,
knee to knee, elbow to elbow,
everyone leans in, unloosened.
The fever comes on quick, its shiver
and restlessness blowing in
with an icy rain. No appetite.
The days narrow to keyholes
and though they say Spring
moves North 11 miles a day,
it’s still too far away, held off
by a gravy of fog and the wet
wind wheezing in my chest.
I am slogging through,
the way cows suck-step through mud.
I am rising above it,
the way rivers roll over their banks.
I fell into sleep last night
exhausted as a distance traveler
in a strange hotel, greyed out,
starved for light, but I’m making it
to the end, chrismed by clean rain
washing winter down gutters
and the tease of a whiskey-
colored sun before dark.
As a girl, I spent my days running
to catch up to where I thought
everyone was getting to.
I talked loud and too fast, told
all my fears and secrets.
But time has taught me we are
noisy and too wanting. So
this year, pondering the tundra
swans, how sleet glitters their wings
and fog braids their eyes,
as they plot an ancient geometry,
returning across a thousand miles
across a hundred years,
I’m wrapping myself in a locus of quiet.
Dark fills us, as a friend and I
rocket in a small car through
a drizzled-shiny night,
unwinding our stories
across the miles. Windows
reflect the deep, deep around us
and a pale parabola of light
thrown out before us catches
the sloe eyes of a deer,
belly-high in ditch weeds,
waiting to cross, blind
and frozen in our headlights.
A raw wind makes its ragged cut through me,
still dragging heavy winter light.
The sun tries hard. I should rejoice
but I am keening for the gone and leaving,
sometimes fast, sometimes slow,
sometimes too slow, a painful crossing over.
On Fat Tuesday, like everyone, I ate my fill
of cold, and now Good Friday,
I go hungry. Why not test my faith?
I’m on my knees crawling across bridges.
It’s a long way down. The river is deep.
Take my hand. Spring is almost here.
About the author:
Susan Elbe is the author of The Map of What Happened, winner of the 2012 Backwaters Press Prize and the Jacar Press 2014 Julie Suk Prize for the best book of poetry published by an independent press in 2013, Eden in the Rearview Mirror (Word Poetry), Where Good Swimmers Drown (Concrete Wolf Press), and Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press). Learn more about her at www.susanelbe.com.
Art Credit: Baptiste Charruyer: Photographer, Paris, France @wild_fangs_photos Title: Bois de Vincennes