Brooklyn Bridge by Esme Devault

Photo of people on the Brooklyn Bridge
Photo by Ethan Bykerk on Unsplash

It’s a long way down—

We start
on 5th Avenue:
all/that/claustrophobic/glitz.

You want a pair of $200 kicks—
so hey, okay kid
we get ‘em.
You carry that box the rest of the way.

We walk to Grand Central Terminal,
and eat our bag lunch
beneath the constellations
ceiling bluer,
stars brighter,
marble Earth down under.

On the platform,
we randomly choose between the 4, 5, and 6 lines.
A large black man says
“Oh, no-you don’t want the local.”
We take it anyway,
since it comes first,
and they’re all headed
in the same direction.

On the train
You and dad stand,
I sit,
and Phillip, a verbose
shaggy white homeless man from the platform,
he stands too.

My name is Phillip, he says,and I am the most articulate homeless man that you will ever meet.
I am earning a computer science degree right here, right now, from this train. I broke my jaw at
age 15 and my grandmother died. She raised me right. I can do any trigonometry problem in
under 5 minutes. Except for some functions, which take 7 minutes. My name is Phillip. . .

All 6 feet, 1 inch of you
leans into me,
wary of this stranger.

We get off at the end of the line,
the Brooklyn Bridge stop.

Outside, street buskers perform acrobatics.
They line up six bystanders—
old/young/black/white/brown/beige/short/tall/girl/boy/fearless/shaking,
and jump
over
all of them.

As we walk towards the bridge,
somebody’s Abuela
is selling juicy orange mango slices
jammed in little plastic sandwich bags.
I want some,
but don’t get them,
much to my later regret.

Many souvenirs:
two hats $10 , key chains, pashminas, Marilyn Monroe art.
Tokens waiting for someone else,
but not us.

We start the long march,
no trail, no tears, no death about it.
But so crowded—
even on this off-brand Monday.

But it’s not as cold as we thought it would be—
gray bag full of hats, gloves, scarves, and ear muffs,
slung over your shoulder.

On the bridge,
everyone is taking selfies—
…..Americans,
……….Chinese,
……………French,
………………..Canadians,
…………………….Mexicans,
…………………………Nigerians,
……………………………..South Africans,
………………………………….Australians,
………………………………………Japanese,
…………………………………………..Koreans,
……………………………………………….Dominicans,
……………………………………………………Germans.

What do they see
in themselves?

We don’t do that.
Dad takes a picture—
you and me
walking away from him,
just like he always does.

“Does anyone jump?” you ask.
“Hope not,” I say, noticing
the gritty
hard
bridge road,
not water,
below.

It’s a long walk. You can see the Statue of Liberty from the top. Our feet hurt.

We arrive at DUMBO and eat pizza.

The ferry ride back is so fast.
You don’t look out the window
tired of me always mom-ing,
directing you
to
look, look, look.

Back on dry land, you look me straight in the eye and you say,
“My name is Phillip. I am the most articulate homeless man you will ever meet.”


Esme DeVault
Esme DeVault is an attorney and poet living in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and dog Charlie. She was previously an English teacher and an academic reference librarian. She has had poems published in Motherscope, Jonah Magazine, The Big Windows Review, Inkling Literary Magazine and Kissing Dynamite: A Journal of Poetry, and forthcoming in October Hill Magazine.

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