One-Minute Memoir

The Bridge

by Mary Azrael

  “Angels, we hear, sometimes don’t know the living from the dead.”

— from Rilke’s first Duino Elegy

This time, in a country far from ours

I see my father on a bicycle, casually

pedaling across a flat bridge, wearing a common cap

and rough jacket – not remarkable, except that

these are the clothes of a living man

and he must be dead, having gone down years ago

into the redbrown cut in a hillside,

dressed in his best suit and tie and good socks

and no shoes.  This can’t be, it mustn’t be

the same man – the father of all my ages, even these

he’s missing – there on the bridge over

a broad canal near one of the Dutch towns

in a landscape of wild skies that change with every breath;

a landscape of pastures built up by the stolid citizens

to outlast the floods, perhaps; where sailboats ride

stately or playful, white flashes of freedom, of joy,

beside the heavy-hearted cows grazing their lowlands

like geese who can’t fly.

He belongs to them, this man, now finished

crossing the bridge, now pedaling away, never having seen me,

carrying a loaf of bread home to dinner where his wife

and two children have laid out the plates and napkins

and forks and knives and spoons, assuming

he will be there with them any minute.

Copyright © 2012, Mary Azrael.

Mary Azrael has led poetry writing workshops in schools and colleges from the Eastern Shore to western Maryland, and now teaches in the Odyssey program at Johns Hopkins University. She’s the author of three books of poems and an opera libretto, Lost Childhood, based on the life of a Jewish boy who survived the Holocaust. She co-edits Passager journal, now in its 22nd year, and Passager Books, a press dedicated to older writers.

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces up to 1000 words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. We have a bias for the lighthearted tone, but good writing is more important. If need be, we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us at 

4 Responses to One-Minute Memoir

  1. Alvera Winkler says:

    Hi Mary, Beautiful imagery. Enjoyed. Takes me to those moments when I am reminded of my father. Recently, I had an experience of meeting a very old woman and being haunted by the feeling that I was seeing myself in the future. Your piece has inspired me to pen it.

  2. Mary Azrael says:

    Thanks, Alvera. I’m glad you felt a connection with your father when you read the poem. And happy you’re inspired to write about that moment of seeing your future self in the old woman. Seems to me that’s a big revelation. I imagine not everybody is clear-eyed (and brave?) enough to go there. I’d like to read how it felt.

  3. Betty Levitov says:

    When I finished reading “The Bridge,” tears popped in my eyes. The image of Mary’s father bicycling across the bridge appeared vividly in my mind, like a film clip. I could see him, too. He’s the father of the poet and the father bringing a loaf of bread home to his wife and two children. The past and the present concurring in the poem, as in life. I scrolled down the blog to Jacquie Roland’s “On and On” and thought her piece was a response to Azrael’s. And it was, though written the week before. Perhaps it was the other way around and Azrael was responding to Roland’s piece. I like these living dead cameos that mess with our ideas about time, chronology, and reality…’s scary and hopeful and fun, as when Hitchcock, in “Strangers on a Train,” attempts to climb onto the coach car with his double bass.

  4. Jacquie Roland says:

    I LOVE Mary’s piece. A heartfelt song from a loving daughter, filled with the most beautiful imagery. ” Pedaling away, never having seen me…” could break a heart of stone.

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