“‘He plunged to his death creeping around the ledge
of the granite tower of an old suspension bridge
crossing the Durance,’ would be an incongruous way
to end my biography,” is what I think
before I’m actually on the ledge and stop thinking.
My body feels so naked before gravity that my panic
at the thought of panicking and actually falling
needs soothing by some mature voice. But I’m old!
“This is probably the last physically daring stupid thing
I may ever do,” I think. And when I make it
onto the bridge its splintered wooden walkway sways a bit
and is burnt through in places. Yes, it looks like a ruin,
like a sun-scorched ancient wooden road that ends
with a high cinderblock wall (which is why
one has to climb around the tower). Below
the Durance is dry. A few frog ponds . A shallow
sheet of water covering some blanched rocks.
This looks like the end of the line. My friend—
whose wife has died—used to take her here. I wonder
if something satisfied them about this enormous metaphor
for doom. Maybe the bridge will last long enough
for me to creep back around the edge of the tower and exit
while my friend says, “Bigger steps. Place your hand
here. Now here.” Maybe some might consider it cathartic
to burn one’s bridges, though the voices of my ancestors
supply a chorus of dismay. I’m finished, I realize,
though I don’t fall. I’ve crossed and made it down,
and now what? Perhaps to take more pictures
so I’ll remember how my thoughts fell away,
my whole being emptied out, as if I’d never been born,
and my astonishment to find I was back
with my body, to go on with my journey.