Two Bridges

Salved green, the Henley Street Bridge
arches its frame, a picture hung on sky
suspending asphalt and type H cement—
prevents buckling, freeze thaw, flexes
history. Flexes ropes swaying, creaking
against friction, cutting deep into grooves
grouted to hide hemp shadows, black
and white.

Like chewed gum staining concrete,
even after it’s scraped, leaves a white stain.
Graffiti on pylons, girders, the moss-mottled
words of Billy Joe, I love you Becky Smith.
KKK’s bigger-lettered, Kill the niggers!
bleeding rust-streaks from iron rivets.

The Gay Street Bridge, too, indifferent,
spans the Mississippi-bound Tennessee,
washes silt and ash, pieces of burnt crosses
and guilt sunk to muddy bottoms fossilized
with bones, black with hatred.

John C. Mannone

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