When Mr. Bridges Died

By Mark Kraushaar

Featured Art: (Children Swimming) by Unidentified 

When Mr. Bridges died I knew
the whole eighth grade would have to gather
in the gym and sit there on those cheerless,
folding metal chairs set up by string-bean
Donny Graf the constant burper.

Mr. Bridges was a substitute,
we hardly knew him, but
I knew that there we’d be, all of us,
and there would be our stiff-grinning
twitchy principal, Mr. Albert Fraze, to slowly,
slowly stand and tell us what a deep
and lasting loss this was for all of us.
And later, sitting there three rows from the exit
by fatso Robert Randall who’d socked me
in the stomach on the 8 bus once,
I knew that Mr. Fraze would drill us
with the first long look that said, Every one of you
should be ashamed, ashamed for even thinking about,
for even thinking about thinking about
turning your gaze away one ten
thousandth of an inch:
a man is dead today.
And then would come this clumsy, freighted
metaphor and though I doubt I knew the word
(metaphor) I knew our Mr. Fraze: Mr. Bridges
was a kind of bridge, he’d say,
or found a bridge, or formed a bridge, or built
a bridge, or was a bridge from ignorance to wisdom,
from confusion to compassion, blah, blah, blah,
which is exactly what he said so that
sitting there I thought of that four-cabled
quarter-mile Roebling tower bridge
and I thought of its glittering
river city Cincinnati since we’d studied it all week.
I pictured its reaching, curving waterway, the great
Ohio and I thought of the circling terns and swirling slicks
and chemical froths and then I thought of a row of houseboats
and a paddlewheel steamer with a single, smiling
tourist, anyone and no one, waving once.

Mark Kraushaar has new work appearing in or forthcoming from Gettysburg Review, Florida Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. A full-length collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, was published by University of Wisconsin Press as winner of the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize. His most recent collection The Uncertainty Principle (published by Waywiser Press) was chosen by James Fenton as winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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