Rivers and Bridges


“The air smelled like Bayou Teche when it’s spring and the fish are spawning among the water hyacinths and the frogs are throbbing in the cattails and the flooded cypress.”
James Lee Burke, Creole Belle

Margaret Simon and I were e-mailing a month or so ago, and Margaret, typically, had a brainstorm. Why don’t we exchange photos and write poems in response to them? I was immediately on board with this idea. Then, she called it “More Than Meets the Eye” and opted to open it up to a wider audience and have participants share when she posted the Poetry Friday Roundup on May 25th. The game was on!

Margaret organized it all and matched up participants from different geographic areas. She sent me two photos of her beloved Bayou Teche, and then, after agonizing over which pictures to send, I finally sent my photos to her as well. (I can’t wait to read her poetic response!)

Duperier bridge sunset.jpg

Photo of the Bayou Teche by Margaret Simon

Duperier Bridge in fall.jpg

Photo of the Bayou Teche and the Duperier Street Bridge by Margaret Simon

True confession: The photos are beautiful, but I have struggled with my response. I’ve been all over the place. My first thoughts involved bridges and the nature of bridges. I was intrigued by the idea that the convenience of bridges comes with a cost–a loss of intimacy with the river.

I initially thought I’d try a rondel (roundel?) but wow..that is hard! This is as close as I got and I keep playing around with it. The challenge of the form appeals to and frustrates me.

Hidden Tolls

Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course
for circumventing nature’s force
for flying o’er shadow and shoal

Intent and focused on our goal
we sow the first seeds of remorse
Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course

We see one path but not the whole
as we forget about our source
and from our roots ourselves divorce
We lose touch with the river’s soul
Each bridge we traverse has a toll

©2018 M. Hogan

Next I tried a nonet, but that one just fizzled…

I shifted my focus and thought about rivers, and again, I was struck by an inherent duality–their potential as blessing and curse. Fertility and flooding. I also thought of the role that rivers have played in history and how they symbolize the inexorable flow of time. I learned that the name Teche is thought to have come from the Chitimacha Indian’s word for snake, a reference to its twisting, turning course. I played around with that metaphor poem for a while, but didn’t gain any traction. I tried a mask poem as well “I bore witness to gunboat duels and hardscrabble poverty…”

Then, Margaret wrote a comment in response to my Poetry Friday post last week. I’d shared two poems focused on adjusting to the empty nest at home. Margaret wrote, “Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” That line reminded me of my thoughts of the river, how it’s so much more peripheral to our lives than it once was (echoes of empty nest here), and I thought perhaps I could use that line to compose a golden shovel.

Forgotten Like a River Under a Bridge

Once central to the pulse and flow of life’s
daily activity, now its changes
are peripheral, casually observed, if at all. A bridge can
span its flow in seconds, avoiding twists, turns and tumult, and make
a straight, safe shot. Convenient, but divorcing us
from communion with the inexorable flow. The sad
truth is that much is lost when we don’t meander and
remember. I wonder…can a river feel lonely?

©2018 M. Hogan

“Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” Margaret Simon

Thanks, Margaret, for creating a wonderful challenge, and for the inspiration for a golden shovel. I’ve so enjoyed this journey! Thanks also for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. To see what photos I sent to Margaret and how she responded, or to check out a plethora of photo poetry and more, go visit Reflections on the Teche.