The Bridge Across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs Iowa, John McKernan

Craig Goodworth, Caldera Study #7 (shot book), 2013




When my father died I walked to the center
Of the bridge and screamed at the bums fishing

On the river bank   Don’t eat the fish hooks
When my brother died I walked down in a snow
Storm and saw how clean the ice looked

I screamed  Stop chewing that monofilament
When Barry died it kept snowing for ten days
I tried to rent an acetylene torch to do something
About all the ice   I walked across the new bridge

The day it opened and screamed
At the cars flashing by at 6o mph
Go home and fry some fish
I know now why I have so few friends
They all know I will never go to their funerals

John McKernan


Review by Jared Pearce

What I like best here is the tension between what is in motion and what is stuck—the traffic versus the ice—and then the speaker and the fish, who seem to be somehow connected as creatures in between, both in motion, alive, but limited in that living, and like the bridge itself liminally stuck.  Such considerations build to the final two lines about friends and refusing funerals, but more than that, the tension between the fishers and the roaring cars, both images of hope and work, contrast with the placid fish getting ready to be fried and the speaker, bewildered with grief and wondering what the world has up its sleeve next.

Scroll to Top