Crossing The Durance ~ Alan Feldman


“‘He plunged to his death creeping around the ledge

of the granite tower of an old suspension bridge

crossing the Durance,’ would be an incongruous way

to end my biography,” is what I think

before I’m actually on the ledge and stop thinking.


My body feels so naked before gravity that my panic

at the thought of panicking and actually falling

needs soothing by some mature voice.  But I’m old!


“This is probably the last physically daring stupid thing

I may ever do,” I think.  And when I make it

onto the bridge its splintered wooden walkway sways a bit

and is burnt through in places.  Yes, it looks like a ruin,

like a sun-scorched ancient wooden road that ends

with a high cinderblock wall (which is why

one has to climb around the tower).  Below

the Durance is dry.  A few frog ponds .  A shallow

sheet of water covering some blanched rocks.


This looks like the end of the line.  My friend—

whose wife has died—used to take her here.  I wonder

if something satisfied them about this enormous metaphor

for doom.  Maybe the bridge will last long enough

for me to creep back around the edge of the tower and exit

while my friend says, “Bigger steps.  Place your hand

here.  Now here.”  Maybe some might consider it cathartic

to burn one’s bridges, though the voices of my ancestors

supply a chorus of dismay.  I’m finished, I realize,


though I don’t fall.  I’ve crossed and made it down,

and now what?  Perhaps to take more pictures

so I’ll remember how my thoughts fell away,

my whole being emptied out, as if I’d never been born,

and my astonishment to find I was back

with my body, to go on with my journey.