- Whenever I Come to It
I want a bridge from me to you, whereverwe are. I want to cross that bridge wheneverI come to it. I don't want the sharp speed of email,stately pace of real mail, crucial rush of FEDEXor big brown UPS. I don't want the hopeless airportpromise of security, sad grey dog of a busor desperate train long past the joyof rolling overland. And I don't wantthe telephone—voice is not enough.
But there are no bridges from me to you, noway to come over, waving a hand, hurryingwhen I see you there; no way to walk rightover the mountains, rivers; walk right overprairies and plains. I do what I can, righthere. I walk the Steel Bridge, vibratingwith traffic, light rail, boxcars; walk Burnside'sBridge, dividing Portland, separating northfrom south—useful separation, unlike ours. [End Page 9] I walk metal grates and slab cement on Hawthorne,on Morrison. I consider Broadway's jumpers.They, who must carefully weigh the deepvalue of separation, want what I don't.They break the thing I want to make.I turn from their perch to look downriverpast the Fremont Bridge's highway ramps,past the stolid railroad trestle, beyond those twotough working bridges—out to distant St Johns.
The grace of St Johns belies its weight:curves suggesting temples, mosques, cathedralswhere we worship the goddess of connection,meditate on the human need for linkage.Crowning the city's ladder of bridges,St Johns stretches across the needto pull ourselves together, demonstratingattachment, embodying our complicated struggleto construct—and maintain—attachment. [End Page 10]
Judith Arcana's books include Grace Paley's Life Stories, A Literary Biography and the recent poetry collection What if your mother. She has received grants, fellowships and residencies from the Puffin Foundation, Rockefeller Archive, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Literary Arts, Soapstone, Montana Artists Refuge, Mesa Refuge and Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. She taught for over forty years in schools, colleges, libraries, living rooms, a prison and a jail. Judith lives in Oregon.