Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Bridge, Palm Sunday, 1973

It avails not. time nor place—distance avails not. . . 
                                   —Whitman. "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
 
The bridge was a huge sentence diagram, 
You and I the compound subject, moving 
Toward the verb. We stopped, breathing 
Balloonfuls of air; and noonday sun sent down 
A hard spray of light. Sensing an occasion,
I put my arm on your shoulder, my friend 
And brother. Words, today, took the form of actions. 

The object of the pilgrimage, 110 Columbia Heights,
Where Hart Crane once lived, no longer existed, 
We learned, torn down, the physical address gone. 
A second possible tribute was to read his Proem 
There on the Promenade in sight of the theme. 
That line moved you about the bedlamite whose shirt 
Balloons as he drops into the river, much like 
Crane's death, though he wasn't a "bedlamite"; 
A dreamer, maybe who called on Whitman and clasped 
His present hand, as if to build a bridge across time. . . . 

We hadn't imagined happenstance would lead us next
To join with the daydreamers lined up before 
An Easter diorama of duck eggs, hatching 
Behind plate glass. The intended sentiment featured 
Feathered skeletons racked with spasms of pecking 
Against resistant shell, struggling out of dim 
Solitary into incandescence and gravity, and quaking 
With the shock of sound and sight as though existence 
Were a nervous disease. All newborns receive the same 
Sentence—birth, death, equivalent triumphs. 
 
Two deaf-mutes walked back the same but inverse way, 
Fatigue making strangers of us and the afternoon 
Hurt, like sunburn. Overexposure is a constant 
Risk of sensation and of company. I wondered 
Why we were together—is friendship imaginary? 
And does imagination obscure or reveal its subject? 
The ties always feel strange, strung along happenstance, 
Following no diagram, incomplete, a bridge of suspense. . . .

 Sometimes completed things revisited still resonate. 
I'm thinking about Crane's poem of the Bridge, 
Grand enough to inspire disbelief and to suspend it. 
The truth may lie in imagining a connection 
With him or with you; with anyone able to overlook 
Distance, shrug off time, on the right occasion. . . . 

If I called him a brother—help me with this, Hart—
Who climbed toward light and sensation until the sky 
Broke open to reveal an acute, perfect convergence 
Before letting him fall back into error and mortality, 
Would we be joined with him and the voyagers before him? 
Would a new sentence be pronounced, a living connection 
Between island and island, for a second, be made? 

Credit


From Stake: Selected Poems 1972-1992 by Alfred Corn (Counterpoint, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author.

Author


Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1943. He grew up

Date Published: 1999-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/bridge-palm-sunday-1973