Catawissa Creek Bridge

by Ivy-Rose Kramer
When we were kids,
                we didn’t ask ourselves,
“Does this make sense?”
Beer in hand, cigarettes falling from our mouths
     we would drive to that bridge
                on Catawissa creek,
staring at the water, not knowing
                a child drowned here—June 14th, 1989.
                                               Why would we?
Our jeans, ripped at the knees,
               Mama asking to sew them closed—
didn’t we know exposed skin made 
               boys like us? Of course we did.
We knew everything back then.
     High school clung
            to us like a loose shirt, covering
               who we were with who we wanted to be.
It was 2010, 
      already a decade into the millennium,
            Grandma said we were lucky to be alive, on her flatscreen
we heard a voice, for the first time 
     a black man behind that presidential podium “In reaffirming 
the greatness of our nation 
            we understand that greatness is never a given. 
                            It must be earned.” 
And we, like the nation, wanted to be great,
            we wanted to reach for something more, but 
we were children, hindered by 
            inexperience and ignorance.
But we would go forth like warriors to battle,
            armed with attitude and confidence.
We would conquer the world, rewrite history, 
                     only to learn that we lost even when we thought we won.
We sat on the bridge, laughing with aviators hanging
            off our noses, chokers making red circles on our necks,
                 bathing suits revealing more than 
we thought they did, just how far
            could we push, how far could we get.
When we drove home,
            we remembered our parents’ warnings
but now, here? We had all we needed—
                      August heat and a year to live for.
We made a new game, a ploy to satisfy a curiosity we didn’t
            know we had. We peeled our ripped jeans 
and Aeropostle camis off like trees shedding leaves
            in Autumn—quickly, with bright bursts of color
                            only to leave our bare skin underneath 
                                  a bright sky and callous wind.
“Jump, jump,” we chanted, and one by one,
            we plummeted 
our second-hand knowledge from history class 
            evaporating into the unimportant. 
Our very own bodies emerging 
            from the water like newborns,
crying and sputtering before crawling 
            back onto earth, the earth we 
                littered with empty cans and cig butts.