Matthew Olzmann has always been poet-as-storyteller. And in “Letter to a Bridge Made of Rope,” the story is that familiar one of improbability: all the reasons we should hope, despite our eyes suggesting otherwise. I love the opening, though — this time the shepherd not the one bringing the good news, but the one awed at the miracle in the air. It’s almost fitting then that in this poem, as in life, what is missed is not what matters most, but how we might be awed by what we notice. Some of these days you just want to remember the fragility of the bridge made of rope, and how even on bad days it has not let anyone down. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Letter to a Bridge Made of Rope
by Matthew Olzmann
To the shepherd herding his flock
through the gorge below, it must appear as if I walk
on the sky. I feel that too: so little between me
and The Fall. But this is how faith works its craft.
One foot set in front of the other, while the wind
rattles the cage of the living and the rocks down there
cheer every wobble, your threads keep
this braided business almost intact saying: Don’t worry.
I’ve been here a long time. You’ll make it across.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, ‘‘Felon,’’ explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine, about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer, won a National Magazine Award. Matthew Olzmann is a poet whose most recent book is ‘‘Contradictions in the Design’’ (Alice James Books, 2016). This poem is taken from his forthcoming collection, ‘‘Constellation Route’’ (Alice James Books, 2022).
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