Triptych with Bridge
We were battered by storms and by men,
weathered by their winds, and their minds,
wilting under scorching air or crushing blows.
We knew hunger and pain, and our parched mouths
could not cry for respite. Our voices had been silenced
and our captors were masters again.
We were forced through the dense undergrowth,
sharp thorns slashing our limbs like knives,
stones cutting into our fettered bare feet.
And we moved on—our separate paths had never met.
But once, we sighted each other across the chasm
and spoke the secret language of the eyes.
In quiet times we could wash our wounds
feeling the altered texture of our skin
and testing the strength of mended bones.
We flexed muscles to see how they'd obey,
drank sweet water from an earthy spring
and tasted ripe fruit from a sheltered orchard.
But the demons appeared again, knocking on walls
we had built for safety. They clamour for attention,
dancing tactile steps of endless variation,
poking around for weaker parts to pierce
and make claims on new territories.
But they are ignorant of what we have learnt.
There is power in looking straight into their eyes.
The old bridge still spans the chasm,
and I know there are times when it is unguarded.
There was a second time our eyes met.
A flutter of recognition shot across the chasm.
and I started slipping, loosing my footing,
though I was on solid ground, and standing still.
The quicksand was in my head, and it dissolved into air,
and I fell.
They were leading us down to the quarry,
captive men in single files, guns pointed at our heads.
On your side it was the same, weapons and weariness.
I struggled to my feet, feeling your eyes follow mine.
The bridge was near, its edges cutting into the morning glow.
Could my wild plan be possible?
The night was long as I lay restless among the huddled shapes of men
gauging the depth of their sleep by the shudder of their snores.
I got up stealthily, fearing my thoughts might be visible, or my longing loud.
I groped in the darkness; the grey pall of dawn was still far away.
But my feet knew the way, by habit now.
Then I stepped on hidden metal.
I still hear the echoes of rubble crashing into the gorge,
and the immense silence, mightier even than the explosion,
when the patter of small stones on sand had stopped.
The cries came then, and lights, and I lay in a red pool.
I was drowning and there were no straws to grasp.
So I flew into the air.
Time does not exist anymore,
and I don't understand the space yet.
I walk beside you, and share your resting-place,
but our worlds do not meet.
The northern winds arise on your side
bringing cold and snow for days, for weeks,
and still you toil, dragging heavy loads up the gorge.
It is hard work sticking stones into the air.
I wait for the bridge's jutting stumps to grow again,
to form their old embrace over the chasm.
I can't lend a hand, assuage your pain,
shelter you from the biting wind.
At will I see the orchard smothered in spring blossom
or laden with the fruit of a late summer.
I listen to the gurgling stream and the chatter of birds,
and to how your burden becomes heavier still.
Into that timeless space you finally cross the bridge.
I see you coming up the hill, treading lightly,
leaving molecules of silver air swirling in your path.
You know I am waiting and the gate is open.