Pilot Light
A Journal of 21st Century Poetics and Criticism
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A Bridge Made of Water

The figure on our horizon is no metaphor.
It is a man on a bridge
overlooking the Los Angeles river.
River might be a metaphor
depending on the season.
For it is summer, and the shine
has dwindled to a trickle
in the whiteness of our page.
The sun in the water is no pearl.
And no sooner we have placed a pearl
inside the sun.
We cannot help it.
We transgress. Like a river.

Pearls drizzle downward
through the bloodstream of the man
who searches the river
for the sky, such as
it is. Standing water comforts no one.
Nothing like a little rain,
a nerve of light running through the gutter.
The sound of a river is another word
for stillness.
Cities hang by the blue threads.
Any wonder we cling
to our waters long after
the trappers and scouts float seaward in canoes.

And because the night rain throws a net of calm
over the sleeping child,
we have all been that child,
eager to become the one
we have never been.
One half of a figure must be
the given. The other, the made,
the wilderness of sleep.
No, the man in this river is not
a river. He’s a guy, more real
than he imagines.
And so he looks down from this bridge to find
his image looking back.

Is it true, we rinse our eyes in the currency
of sleep. All across Los Angeles,
the quiet violence
of the new. Men do what they do.
They pass on.
Their bodies are rivers inside of rivers
that flood the banks
of those they leave behind.
No, the man in this body is no metaphor.
And so he is available
to be one.
Somewhere in his sleep, an ocean rises up in terror
and pauses.

Like a sentence that clings
to the stillness of paper.
He wakes. The ocean falls.
The world, as he knows it, goes on.
Nothing is funny
without distortion. Funny-weird,
funny-ha-ha. Bells charm in the distance.
This much is clear.
The time they measure is a bridge
in flames.
Try falling in love with a world
that never lies. Never burns.
These are facts.

The child who is a man again
traces his face
in the water with a stick.
Nature holds a mirror to art
the way death holds a mirror to our nature.
I hate death
and love the fruit it bears.
This man for one.
This body that is a bridge
in the water.
The heart’s apple
borne across the threshold of this,
our native tongue.