The Swinging Bridge
A mile above earth, the Swinging
Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
perches perfectly calibrated –
by guy, cable and girder –
to lord the tourist over
the Manichean abyss.
Faith is paramount.
I take my place at the threshold
of planks, stretching the span
like a bridal crash.
Ahead of me, queued
on the bridge, sway three nuns,
the tripartite soul, in tandem.
My schoolboy bane, I have made a life
cursing them. When I was brave
enough to raise my hand in Catechism,
and ask why God had allowed Eve
to be tempted by the serpent –
knowing as He had, omnipotent,
the ghastly result – the sisters spat,
“It’s a mystery.” And that was that.
Another heretical crack
about free will versus determinism
would fetch me a beating –
no mystery at all, but causal certainty.
If the bridge is about to collapse –
the way time in His economy collapses
into past, present and future simultaneously –
God already knows.
The bridge has, in effect, already begun its plummet.
The nuns are clearly a sign –
that I should follow in the odor of sanctity –
or turn and run like hell.
A Jesuit in frock coat and berretta,
black scarred orthopedic shoes,
documents with a black digital
camera the nuns’ final steps.
He smells of frankincense.
His back is to me.
He won’t set foot on the bridge.
In the glorious gale, their wimples blow.
Gargantuan rosaries belt them,
clicking like God’s dentures.
A little blonde girl in sunglasses,
stares straight at me.
In the distance, on his craggy
hairless peak, Grandfather,
like Jehovah, dozes in grave repose,
antediluvian chin chiseled
on His chest, senescent beard
rimed with the final snow
of the new equinox.
6,000 feet below
slides the valley of Purgatory.
These are the oldest mountains on earth.