The Lost Art of Bridges
You wonder sometimes, how long it will take
before neglect and time, weather and abuse
will take down this old bridge.
It was a railroad bridge.
You can still see the marks of where tracks once lay,
the rows of steel long ago stripped away.
If you dig into the dirt that has piled on the roadbed,
you might find a spike or two, black and rusted, still strong,
but with nothing to bind.
Trees grow there now, in a place where trees are not supposed to be.
Their roots probing in the soil, finding each man made weakness
in their search for food and growth.
There is a sign at the edge of the shore. A warning.
“Danger.” “Do not walk here.”
but you have never been good at obeying
and so you cross the threshold and step gingerly
to the center of the bridge. You are surprised
at how solid it still feels. You wonder,
no, you believe it could still hold the iron horse locomotives
that once crossed this river, twice a day,
to and from the paper mills an hour downstream.
But somewhere, sometime, someone determined
the bridge had become fragile, a danger,
a thing not worth saving.
It will fail someday. Not this moment, but certainly
it will fall. Neglected things always do.
But today you are here, your feet firm on the remaining steel and gravel,
shaded by the persistent tree.
The water flows below. mocking your false sense of safety,
Your unsubstantiated belief in the value of the abandoned.
About this poem
The picture was taken at Eagle Rock, Virginia. I have been carrying it around for years and years and finally this morning, the poem I thought was in it, emerged.
I am patient like that.