Friday, February 24, 2012


So I've been thinking about bridges.

In particular, about this quote: “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.” - David Russell

This is a variation, I think, on what I often claim is the primary challenge of parenthood: knowing when to push and when to let go.

I like thinking about these things, about how true they are, how they apply to my life. It seems I've done my share of crossing and burning lately. It's not easy.

Did you know there is a bridge engraved with poetry in Minneapolis, MN? Minneapolis, where I just visited a few months ago. How I wish I'd known about this at the time! I totally would have put it on the itinerary, even though reports are that it is very LOUD. (I'm not a big fan of LOUD.)

Anyhow, the poem is by John Ashbery. That first sentence is a brilliant jumping-off place for anyone's poem. In fact, I'm borrowing it for my morning work. We'll see what happens.

And now I cannot remember how I would
have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
The place, of movement and an order.
The place of old order.
But the tail end of the movement is new.
Driving us to say what we are thinking.
It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
and think of going no further.
And it is good when you get to no further.
It is like a reason that picks you up and
places you where you always wanted to be.
This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
Then there is no promise in the other.
Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
small panacea
and lucky for us.
And then it got very cool.

—John Ashbery 

What are your thoughts on bridges, burning and/or crossing? Let me hear from you in comments. And don't forget to visit Jone at Check It Out for Poetry Friday Roundup!


  1. Very cryptic. I like it when poems allow your own voices to spill through within those lines. Burning bridges and crossing them - a lot to think about there. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Today in my class, we discussed what crosswalks signify (we had watched Lost in Translation). The students came up with really interesting stuff---that crosswalks control movement, keep people safe, and encourage individuals to act as a crowd.

    Bridges...crosswalks for cars? Bridges sound different as we drive over them, and often connect two pieces of land with water in-between. There is an element of danger, too...

    I would love the poetry bridge.

  3. I keep reading that line that says "Then there is no promise in the other" & wondering if to cross the bridge is dangerous, but "small panacea" keeps some safety? Is it a warning or support? It is such an interesting poem to ponder, Irene. Thank you!

  4. Nice poem! I like the cover and title of your newest novel: Don't feed the boys. It looks interesting.

  5. Like Linda I'm pondering over lines that welcome crossing and lines that signify the ending of possibilities in doing so. Lots to think about! Also, how cool to have a bridge inscribed with poetry!

  6. I've been taught to never burn your bridges. But choosing which bridge to cross and when.. now there lies the trouble.

    Happy Birthday Irene!


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