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The Post and Courier Prize

Brian Slusher

 

Crybaby Bridge

               "There is a steel bridge no longer in use off Old Buncombe Road

               where it is said a young woman jumped to her death with her baby."
                                    —Shadowlands website


It seems to cross every
creek and river in the South.
Ask a local kid and he’ll say
he ain’t been, but knows
another boy who parked nearby
that vine-choked span and
the car rolled uphill its own self,
or that his older sister went at midnight
with some friends and saw an
infant’s face stare back
from out the troubled water.

Though no teller will agree
upon this creep show’s genesis
(one says a cornered runaway chose
death instead of chains
for her child, another swears
spite against a cheating husband)
one revelation never varies:
the disembodied sobs that soak
your ears as though you had been
pitched into a sea of screaming.

Explain it how you will, but
bet it’s not the wind
wrenching through the
rusted steel supports,
no screech owl haunting
the bank-side trees
but the shriek of something
each breathless witness thought
drowned long ago—
a name, a lost ambition,
some crying shame.