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The William Gilmore Simms Prize

Henk Brandt

 

Drawbridge on New Year's Eve

The old turn-style drawbridge is opening.
        From my car I watch two sailboats approach.
A man emerges from the truck behind me
        with his chocolate lab. Strolling up to the very edge
of the drawbridge’s gaping mouth,
        he sits, lights a cigarette and dangles his legs
into that seemingly impossible space.
        He waves to the sailboats, one by one.
As the bridge begins to creak its way back,
        the man quickly looks all around, perhaps savoring
his audacity. The man and dog have this routine
        timed perfectly: as they saunter back,
the man’s lights up his aw-shucks smile, waves merrily
        at each of the idling cars, then re-starts
his truck at the very moment the bridge nestles
        back into place and the barrier lifts.
His edge-perching, an inspired caper
        risen to an art-form, is a wondrous gift for me
on this New Year’s Eve, so perfect in its odd equipoise
        that the last shrill clang of the bridge bell
goes through my body like the fatal bullet
        of the last battle I’ll ever want to fight.