Poems & Essays

20 Jun

Learning Under High Bridge

General/Column No Response

My son dangles his limbs
Through the rungs in the rail
under High Bridge, where the Mississippi
cuts its channel through St. Paul;
in a language all his own,
he chirps and points as if to say,
This—this means log. See it floating?
That—that is a riverboat. Daddy, say it with me?

He points, in turn, to the concrete footings,
steel scaffolding of the bridge, at plastic
caught in the current for Lower Town,
and with each abstract burble, pop, and squeal,
he names things he will translate for me
later, and I try not to see the inky blackness
sweeping one meter below his toes,
and I tell myself that his body cannot fit
in the space between the steel,

and yet my mind flickers to an image of him
in the current, and me giving chase,
my useless limbs flailing, unable to
pull my mass through the water,
unable to grasp a leg or arm
as he is swallowed by the covetous stream,
like everything that bloats this river while it
consumes the whole of every tributary
from Minnesota to Gulf of Mexico;

but I force out the image and remind myself
that he is safe here—he cannot fall into
the river he names dur-da;
he reaches for wood floating out of reach
past the footings toward the city;
he waves at a boat on a sunset cruise,
to the couple jogging on the far bank,
toward a city he will name home.


Daniel Ruefman’s poetry and short fiction has widely appeared in periodicals, including the Red Earth Review, Barely South Review, Clapboard House, FLARE, Burningword, DIALOGIST, SLAB, and others. His chapbook, “Breathe Automatic” was released by Finishing Line Press in 2014. He is the proud father of three boys.

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