Government Bridge
Roger Jones

Old as the town the iron swing bridge
was a dreadful, cantilevered relic with bars,
pulleys, and a deep fearful air
of the mechanical sublime.  It rattled me
as a child, hulking
impersonally across from its bank
on the island like a rustling dinosaur --
far more frightful at night,
when the wide river ran past town
in darkness, a constant shirr one couldn’t unhear,
making us see it even more vividly inward.

Out of dense night air and eternal pulse
of river, a plaintive horn
would signal, a red light
appear in the distance, and the bridge
would go into its clanking, clattering
motion, a dirge of metallic scrapes
along unseen tracks, lopsided pulleys,
as half the bridge soon stood alone
across the way, and the nearer half
swung broadside to the flow.  Soon

the dimly-lit passing craft – barge
most often, or riverboat – would glide
noiselessly through. From a bank
we could see the other side
of a severed highway in darkness,
a few lonely sprinkled lights suspended
there, the road itself
like an abruptly-halted thought,
a sheer drop in space to the unseen abyss

below. We held our breath
in fear of non-endings. But in time the inhuman
creak and iron shudder of the retracted side 
would commence again, in reverse;
the intersected commerce
of road to road, to the island itself ,
would resume its duty, while starless night
and river, joined, surged on.

Return to Fall 2015 Table of Contents