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The Bridge


Over the bridge across the river,
the pilgrims prayed in lockstep,
and the deafening coherence
of the single voice they made
was a fulfillment of the dream
each voice, alone, inaudible,
dreamt it could be as it prayed.

The gold dome of the holy shrine
beyond the bridge was glistening
like the paradise inside the prayer,
which the prayer was promising
to those who said the prayer
the way it wanted to be said,
which was the way they said it,

as if they were a people only
of the prayer, a people
spoken through by what
they spoke together, who
by being spoken through
could almost think that they
were there already—there

in the light of what they'd be
the single voice of endlessly
instead of merely people on a bridge,
instead of more and still more
jammed hard together, pressed
in and pushing in to inch
in forward like a giant knot

they were all trying to untie
by tying tighter under sun
that smoldered a white
hole in the dome's reflection
in the dark fast river—till
one by one all along the bridge
they started spilling over

like small impurities the praying
mass they were spit out
as it surged through and past
the screams that sank like duff
down the smoldering hole
the sun burned on the rippling
dome within the water

that outside the prayer was in-
escapable, uncrossable
except as water flowing from
and to within and over
water—made from water
out of heat forged from the
coldest nothing that there is.


Alan Shapiro

Reel to Reel
The University of Chicago Press


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