The Bridge, Palm Sunday, 1973
It avails not. time nor place—distance avails not. . .
by Alfred Corn
—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?