The Railroad Bridge at Bellows Falls
by William Doreski
Yesterday a man fell eighty feet
from the railroad bridge at Bellows Falls
and battered to meat loaf on the rocks.
The riverbed’s almost dry,
most of the flow diverted
to fuel the hydroelectric plant.
The bare rocks sun like turtles.
From the bridge, which has no guard rails,
the drop seems factual and forever.
An old man caning his way
along the track, his rubber tip
counting every tie, explains
the victim was drunk and tumbled
in panic when a train appeared.
What would you do? I wondered.
Chance the rotten old walkway,
I suppose. The Guilford Company,
which owns the railroad and the bridge,
proffers corporate indifference
and won’t patch up the walkway
because that would only encourage
illicit pedestrian traffic—
though dozens of people chance it
daily. The dead man, though, was drunk
and probably fell in the dark,
fell into a greater dark
than the one he’d fully expected.
No one saw the fall, only the corpse
wracked and tattered on the rocks.
Why do I think it was me?
Why do I feel an absence creep
up my ankles, into my thighs?
I’m upright and reasonably wholesome,
but this heavy steel bridge unnerves me,
the long drop beneath it adequate
for a personal theory of flight,
one in which death is success,
the dark so intimate no one
except those committed to it
ever learn that it has a name.
Copyright © 2012 by William Doreski.