the Chinese bridge

I’ve crossed many bridges, burnt none
and seen one that wasn’t even there
on a day when fishermen slung their hooks
and took a waterproofed homeward track
whilst we tacked on against the grain
and relentless rain turned us muddy
and bent like bloodhounds scenting the way

there was no going astray, close to heel at our left
the river cleft by the weir and then a change of places
weather scoured faces, torrent rush below cold feet
beating  a hasty path over spuming sluice gates
waters in full spate and our words windblown
and drowned in the turbulent clamour

still onward up the Thames trail, and backward the course
back to a trickling source in Gloucester’s shire
but wired in sight this day the six mile stop ahead
boots of lead, caked wet and shrunken by the weather
foot bound leather as if by ancient Chinese rite
all pleasure now was plight, our eyes on look out
for the one way out – right turn at the bridge

Encouraging thoughts of town and warmth and rest
progressed when rain gave way to mist
and in its midst the overpass so sorely sought
brought to view three wooden painted arches, faded red
half walled, verandas roofed with mossy grey pantiles.
The sight of miles’ end quickened footsore pace
but all trace vanished as nearer still we made headway
before us lay only the river parting murky meadows
where rows of Poplar shadows bowed

Though cowed we kept our stride and casting  off
the figment of imaging made good the final stretch
and held our breath when stone sunk piers appeared
and cheered as brick by brick the bridge took shape – for real.

[some years ago M and I walked the 180 miles of Thames Path National Trail from barrier to source and this day of rain and visions was memorable]

written for Lilian’s Poetics: Abridged Version & joining open link night as am rather late with the prompt

18 Comments on “the Chinese bridge

  1. That is quite an adventure… the blow by blow account ~ Can’t wait to get into warmth and safety for sure ~


  2. Love the details of the walk, the heavy boots, the light and the bridges. With the first stanza in place I read the whole poem as an extended metaphor for a life lived well.


  3. Fun ! Loved the closing “as brick by brick the bridge took shape – for real”. I have seen this phenomena many times, of course and your words captured it wonderfully


  4. Love the imagery here.. you weave such magic with your words 🙂


  5. I am soooo very late to my reading from Thursday’s OLN but so VERY GLAD I got to yours. This is absolutely beautiful, Laura. And so appropriate for the “bridge” prompt. “Mist” and “midst” so close together in lines…such fine imagery here throughout. There is a pacing to the reading…I’ve read it twice that takes me on this journey with you. I am especially “connected” to those words about tacking against the grain…and then I take them into our lives where there are times indeed when we seem to be doing this, aren’t there. This must have been a memorable hike for you. You’ve captured the memory and visions here so well that you bring your readers right into the trek. I hope you have photos too! 🙂 Beautiful! Thank you so much for posting!


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