June 12th

Don’t Look Down

Some days after school Mom walks us across the river
for hot dogs—you on one hand, me on the other—and I pretend
to be some plucky hero, leading you both to safety,
telling you, “Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t look down.”
My own eyes fixed on rooftops that much too slowly
become houses, become homes, beyond the arched steel horizon.
I pull her arm. Try to drag you both to the other side, wondering
who would build a thing so full of holes high above the water—
a bridge of air, really. A thin grid of greenish iron and space.
That’s all I see when I look down—what isn’t there—spoiled
by other bridges and their can’t-see-throughness. But Mom
always picks Walnut Street. Loves the hum of tires, and I don’t dare
tell her that’s the sound sky makes beneath your feet.
I just say, “Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t look down.”
And I lead you both to solid ground. Two hot dogs and fries,
my reward for being brave, but the whole time we eat I can’t not think
about the long walk home, and the bridge that isn’t there,
and that hungry current churning down below.

(not published in chapbook, part of original book-length manuscript)