Back to Issue Forty-Four

Variation on Bridge as Metaphor


Julio. I’m here to tell you of sugar-
cane fields. Later, they’ll be burned by the men
in October who labor for the promise
sweetness made us. This country.
Meanwhile: the boys are taking me far,
to the field edge, then farther, to the river
full of dirt, currents repeating their motions
like soldiers, then farther, to the bridge
our grandmother crossed on her wedding
day: I’m here to tell you the story of the bridge,
how first it was simple safety over a swim
a man with copper heart could never
survive. How then it made a city, men who could step
over the pull and pool of history. How, years later, my grandfather
petitioned to bring the bridge down, for all the men already
pushed from its harsh height, then deleted
under its clouded brushmarks. How couples still
watch the muddied water’s tussle after love-making,
limbs helpless as driftwood. How now the bridge stands
to remind us of everywhere we no longer cross. It was
a game they played, my cousins, to throw stones
at the cords holding the bridge down, aluminum strings
coiled in columns wide as our wrists. I joined them, the boys,
throwing stones in sprays. I’m here to tell you about
the throwing: how my oldest cousin chucked
rocks in the clouds, how mine sunk then settled
behind the bushes near the car. How our throws interrupted
the hues, the fields, their symmetry, the shapes our hands make
around the things we love. I’m here to tell you what happened
when one finally kissed its mark, thrown
by who knows: something speaking, finally,
from beyond itself. How the whole bridge rang like
a struck bell. How the leaves shook. How the calves stopped sipping milk
from their mothers. How the hummingbirds dropped
from the sky, how the river paused its orchestra.
How the fields stood still.


Ricardo Frasso Jaramillo is a poet and writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and elsewhere. He is 2022–2023 National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critics fellow, as well as a case manager at a high school for immigrant youth in the Oakland Unified School District.

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