Crossing the Void

(for Stanley Kunitz)

I pick my crooked way
across a half-built bridge
past left-behind lunchpails,
rusting wrenches, cables
coiled scattershot
half across the span.
Could my scream be heard?
No, nor anyone catch
a glimpse of a body falling
to the rocks, hammered to pieces
by the brawling stream below.
I count my footsteps toward
the emptiness ahead
with no memory pushing me,
not the milk-scented kisses of childhood,
nor the prickle of revenge
nor the black hounds of grief.
Against my face
droplets of flannel mist
dash tiny explosions.
Misguided by travel,
I know that without ground
I can hear no music, yet
unless I go on I’ll be barred
from footing ashore
in rigging, on bridges,
clambering or crossing. As I approach
the vanishing point, I begin to feel
a half-remembered sickness
as when the waterfilled seaboot
pulls down, and then the list,
heave, and plunge
of sinking planking.
—Peter Davison