It avails not. time nor place—distance avails not. . . —Whitman. "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" The bridge was a huge sentence diagram, You and I the compound subject, moving Toward the verb. We stopped, breathing Balloonfuls of air; and noonday sun sent down A hard spray of light. Sensing an occasion, I put my arm on your shoulder, my friend And brother. Words, today, took the form of actions. The object of the pilgrimage, 110 Columbia Heights, Where Hart Crane once lived, no longer existed, We learned, torn down, the physical address gone. A second possible tribute was to read his Proem There on the Promenade in sight of the theme. That line moved you about the bedlamite whose shirt Balloons as he drops into the river, much like Crane's death, though he wasn't a "bedlamite"; A dreamer, maybe who called on Whitman and clasped His present hand, as if to build a bridge across time. . . . We hadn't imagined happenstance would lead us next To join with the daydreamers lined up before An Easter diorama of duck eggs, hatching Behind plate glass. The intended sentiment featured Feathered skeletons racked with spasms of pecking Against resistant shell, struggling out of dim Solitary into incandescence and gravity, and quaking With the shock of sound and sight as though existence Were a nervous disease. All newborns receive the same Sentence—birth, death, equivalent triumphs. Two deaf-mutes walked back the same but inverse way, Fatigue making strangers of us and the afternoon Hurt, like sunburn. Overexposure is a constant Risk of sensation and of company. I wondered Why we were together—is friendship imaginary? And does imagination obscure or reveal its subject? The ties always feel strange, strung along happenstance, Following no diagram, incomplete, a bridge of suspense. . . . Sometimes completed things revisited still resonate. I'm thinking about Crane's poem of the Bridge, Grand enough to inspire disbelief and to suspend it. The truth may lie in imagining a connection With him or with you; with anyone able to overlook Distance, shrug off time, on the right occasion. . . . If I called him a brother—help me with this, Hart— Who climbed toward light and sensation until the sky Broke open to reveal an acute, perfect convergence Before letting him fall back into error and mortality, Would we be joined with him and the voyagers before him? Would a new sentence be pronounced, a living connection Between island and island, for a second, be made?
From Stake: Selected Poems 1972-1992 by Alfred Corn (Counterpoint, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author.