I found her in a blue dress

beneath the old wooden bridge

with ropes round her wrists,

her neck, her ankles.


It’s how we would tie a hog,

when there was money

for that type of thing.


Her hair was perfect

but, by the time Powell got her to Texas,

her dress looked like it had caught

the wrong side of a horse.




A year later the new bridge goes up.

All clean cable and wire,

so the cars can drive too fast

and my boy and I can’t sit there,

let the water pass.


As a kid, I’d rest on the splintered rail, protected

in the strong shade of the cyprus pines,

drop pennies or spit onto the frogs of Cow Creek

back when the water ran clear.


But they said a good car couldn’t cross it.

So I guess the children

who used to throw pennies, spit,

had to find something new.


I still see the old bridge,

pennies rusting in water.





I remember they told me

Falyssa Van Winkle was ten

and she got raised

a little north of here.


They said she went to buy peanuts

at some flea market in Beaumont

and her mother watched Falyssa go,

kept hawking clay ashtrays

and heavy magnifying glasses;

nothing fancy, just stuff

people sometimes need.


Five hours later Falyssa

was under the bridge I used to spit off

and Powell was cleaning his mobile home,

readying to drive north.





Nowadays I don’t pass the creek much.

There is no reason to walk my quiet boy

across metal into Louisiana.


If the bridge I knew still stood

maybe I could bring him down,

tell him the lawn can wait. Tell him


his father wants to pass the time,

make him talk.

But the bridge is not there any more.


Somebody told me Powell made it

into the papers, said his last words

were, “I am ready for my blessing.”


And Falyssa’s bag of salted peanuts

has run down, met the big river.

That last thing of hers,

heading for the ocean.




First published in Northwords Now (2008), revised for Oxford Poets 2010: An Anthology and collected in Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, 2010.