i was writing a post i wasn’t sure i should post. It was negative. i took a break when i answered a phone call from a friend who shared childhood, youth, and a couple of Navy times together.
Before i got back to that, i moved a few papers around in my futile attempt to organize or throw away a bunch, i mean a bunch of stuff when i ran across this, something i read rather frequently because it hits at the heart of me.
It is the first part of something my brother sent me when i turned forty, about half way around the globe in the middle of the Indian Ocean as the executive officer of the USS Yosemite (AD 19), you know, the deployment i’m wrestling putting into a book.
i have long maintained my brother Joe is rather fantastic and an amazing, amazing writer, far better than me. i think this poem proves it. i did not include the second part of the poem, which is a more personal note between brothers, five years different in age.
But read, my friends. It remains one of my favorite poems of all time, and not just because the author is my brother.
On the Bridge by Joe Jewell
Will you be alone on the bridge
when the moment comes?
Surrounded by the winking lights
on the night watch, the scopes that
tell you what’s out there;
the horizon etched in nothingness,
abstract as another’s death,
the indigo sky meeting and reflected
by the dark ocean, so only
the externals, the stars, tell you where you are.
One wrong move and it’s a plunge
into the depths of that darkness
Which is shallow compared to the depths
Can all those lights and signals guide
you there? It is a technical question
I realize, answering how, not why or who.
We’re tacking too close to theology there.
The externals tell you about entering a new
age, new year, new decade. I’ve never
believed them. Only know when you are.
History is just a record kept to tell us
about the others. We all cross that bridge,
but in a span of time, and make it Ours.
When you sit there in the dark watching the lights
straining to know the horizon, capsuled in steel,
knowing the tropic heat will come like a cat
to steal your breath, remember, all moments
are the same and age like history an illusion.
It is the sequestered heart that brings you home.
Remember on your bridge to ask the right questions,
laugh at the coming day.