By Martin Jones
We were fishing off dānus brēhwā, too humble
to call a bridge, casting for perch and pickerel
and talking such nonsense as boys talk, of
county fairs and wild horses, of whom among
gods is fiercest and among girls the loveliest,
a morning made for fishing, no rain for days, no
clouds, just a wayward breeze and the sun.
Who was first to fall silent? Was it the crow or
the morning dove, the village dogs or perhaps
the cicadas by the road? Maybe it was us.
Later, we said our shivering was from the cold
but we knew it was fear; even the sun hid itself
in a storm cloud as the ominous slow click-clog
began, soft at first, growing towards scrapes and
moans; all nature heard it with us, a being
trudging slowly in pain, dragging a foot behind,
flinging its twisted body forward in slow-motion.
At bridge-top the head swiveled toward us with
a leer of broken teeth; there were no eyes but
pools of death and lamentation without end.
I vomited when it was gone, you shivered once
more and slowly, the morning re-assembled itself.
And yet I wonder if it was really you and I on that
bridge so many summers ago, for it seems a time
beyond recollection. The story has been told in
so many places and for so long, by my grandfather
and his grandfather, one imagines it to be a tale
from the far edge of memory that in a lost clearing
along the Nile River or in Ur’s primordial eden,
two boys were fishing off a bridge when the devil
passed by, foreseeing this singular event
to be sufficient.