Crossing Brooklyn Bridge at 4 O’Clock in the Morning, August 4th, 1979

Oh, love spat upon and made mockery of! 

The night’s sorrow
This heart of moon tears in the darkest before sunrise 
This aloneness after betrayal
Dust blown grit of yesterday rot 
This suffocating thirst
This ache to plunge into oblivion!

I, shoulder hunched, hands balled into my pockets, shivering in the cold
Stand at this time morning facing the Bridge of Brooklyn leading across into Manhattan, 
My bridegroom feet covered in running shoes torn by nails of jilt, 
My legs of lactic acid, my knees weakening upon the grates of the bridge, 
My gin eyes, drooped as the lowering of curtains around the one who is dying, 
Peer down into the waters of absolution and scream your name, 
Walt Whitman! Walt Whitman! Walt Whitman! 

Poet of ferry boats and of poets ages hence to come, 
Wound dresser, washer of the slave’s feet, 
Dream keeper who sleeps with prisoners in slumber, 
Oh, nurse of eternal compassion! 
Ferry me across these waters of deceit. 
Bear me safely over this bridge of steel and concrete
That I may live to shed this grief. 

“Crossing Brooklyn Bridge at 4 O'clock in the Morning, August 4th, 1979” from Selected Poems of Calvin C. Hernton © 2023 by Antone Hernton. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission.