Abstract Magazine International | The Bridges to April by Susan Elbe
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The Bridges to April by Susan Elbe

29 May 2017, Posted by admin in Poetry

Art Credit: “Bois de Vincennes” by Baptiste Charruyer




We’ve all got coughs, January rattles that won’t quit.

Our necks wrapped in warm scarves

against the cold night, we trail

one by one into the ill-lit bar.

Some let oysters and cold beer slide

down their raw throats. Some want smooth

brandy on the rocks and steamed

mussels in a broth of winter’s melting.

We’re all flush-faced, heated by

the burn of wasabi mayo,

the finger-licking salt of pommes frites.

Ungloved, unwrapped, unzipped,

knee to knee, elbow to elbow,

everyone leans in, unloosened.




The fever comes on quick, its shiver

and restlessness blowing in

with an icy rain. No appetite.


The days narrow to keyholes

and though they say Spring

moves North 11 miles a day,


it’s still too far away, held off

by a gravy of fog and the wet

wind wheezing in my chest.




I am slogging through,

the way cows suck-step through mud.


I am rising above it,

the way rivers roll over their banks.


I fell into sleep last night

exhausted as a distance traveler


in a strange hotel, greyed out,

starved for light, but I’m making it


to the end, chrismed by clean rain

washing winter down gutters


and the tease of a whiskey-

colored sun before dark.




As a girl, I spent my days running

to catch up to where I thought

everyone was getting to.

I talked loud and too fast, told

all my fears and secrets.

But time has taught me we are

noisy and too wanting. So

this year, pondering the tundra

swans, how sleet glitters their wings

and fog braids their eyes,

as they plot an ancient geometry,

returning across a thousand miles

across a hundred years,

I’m wrapping myself in a locus of quiet.




Dark fills us, as a friend and I

rocket in a small car through

a drizzled-shiny night,


unwinding our stories

across the miles. Windows

reflect the deep, deep around us


and a pale parabola of light

thrown out before us catches

the sloe eyes of a deer,

belly-high in ditch weeds,

waiting to cross, blind

and frozen in our headlights.




A raw wind makes its ragged cut through me,

still dragging heavy winter light.

The sun tries hard. I should rejoice


but I am keening for the gone and leaving,

sometimes fast, sometimes slow,

sometimes too slow, a painful crossing over.


On Fat Tuesday, like everyone, I ate my fill

of cold, and now Good Friday,

I go hungry. Why not test my faith?


I’m on my knees crawling across bridges.

It’s a long way down. The river is deep.

Take my hand. Spring is almost here.



About the author:

Susan Elbe is the author of The Map of What Happened, winner of the 2012 Backwaters Press Prize and the Jacar Press 2014 Julie Suk Prize for the best book of poetry published by an independent press in 2013, Eden in the Rearview Mirror (Word Poetry), Where Good Swimmers Drown (Concrete Wolf Press), and Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press). Learn more about her at www.susanelbe.com.


Art Credit: Baptiste Charruyer: Photographer, Paris, France @wild_fangs_photos Title: Bois de Vincennes


  • Gillian

    This is a magnificent poem, Susan. Magnificent.

  • Kelly Cherry

    Loved this.

  • Robin Chapman

    Great poem !

  • Susan Elbe

    Thanks so much, Gillian, Kelly, and Robin! Much appreciated that you’ve commented here.


    A beautiful weave of a poem.


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