Washed-Out Bridge


Scrambling down a steep slope, I knelt before
an Ithurielís spear, a rattlesnake rippling
by my boot before I could even jump, lizards
scampering through dry leaves, the river crashing

through the canyon below. Once I flew over
unstable stones in the river bottom, struggling
to keep up with my brother and his friends. Today
I surveyed each inch before taking a step.

I discovered the skeletal steel frame of a washed-out bridge
clinging to a megalithic stone in the middle
of the river, and I remembered: Forty years ago,
a friend excitedly told us about the mangled bridge,

and without another word we had dashed through
the river bottom to find it. That day I'd felt clumsy
and weak (the first sign of chronic illness), and I
just couldnít keep up. I had been ditched before

on a moonless night and in a cave, but never
abandoned in broad daylight. Today I was twelve
again, but I'd found the bridge and they hadn't.
Unlike them, I continued to wander through a forest

of symbols, the bridge for a moment a ghastly symbol
of the past forty years, yet I somehow felt the same,
as though I had entered a timeless place. Our fathers,
who had fished side by side that day,

both died a few years later. Forty years ago
in this same river bottom, my daimon, my Holy
Guardian Angel, on several occasions,
had spoken to me of events to come, decades

in the future, but I, nonplussed, had forgotten
the voice until the events finally transpired.
The perplexing, unpredictable Angel
is only my soul, whose voice transcends

space and time--in this river bottom
and in meditation. Today I closed my eyes,
a rose blooming in my mind's eye, at first
blood-red on a cross of splintery wood,

then the petals different colors, each petal
representing a path on the Tree of Life,
the cross an unfolded cube of space
and time. I could have been anyone,

these past forty years, and this forest
would still be the same as it was,
yet the rose cross has bloomed inside me,
and perhaps eternally abides, a symbol

of the soul in timeless grace,
the river bottom forgotten until I opened
my eyes again as a snake slithered nearby
through leaves like dry, curling hands.

Open door number one.
Open door number two.
Open door number three.