Thursday Poem


the man who climbed the Brooklyn Bridge
who walked the highest cables
and swung hand-over-hand from one side
to the other   who eluded ten cops with harnesses
and ropes   a helicopter   a boat below
with emergency crews and a backboard
who asked for a cigarette and a beer   who swung
upside down with his knees hooked
around a cable and took a cigarette
from one cop’s hand and smoked it laughing
and then flipped over and slid down fireman-style
one cable and upside down again around another
and skirted between the outstretched hands of two cops
and again   and then again

who after two hours of this
with a crowd gathered on the pedestrian walkway
of the Manhattan Bridge and traffic stopped
in both directions on the Brooklyn Bridge
with all of us looking up from the Fulton Ferry landing
where Whitman wrote about us the generations hence
but probably couldn’t have imagined
the cell phones and laptops   all the exposed skin
and his words themselves cut out of the metal railing
between the defunct ferry landing and East River

who finally gave up   gave over
to the embrace of one big-shouldered cop
and hugged him hard for a long time
as we started our applause from down below

was not an acrobat   or a bridge worker
or a thrill-seeker
as many of us with our feet on the ground believed
including one gnarled hardhat who said
if he ain’t one of ours let’s sign him up
but a “simple welder” the paper the next day said
who according to his mother did very well
at gymnastics in high school

whose bloody hands stained the cop’s shirt
said when asked why he did what he did
I have issues

while we with issues but perhaps not issues enough
to become suddenly the best show in town
however briefly   clapped and clapped
as if we wanted our hands bloodied like his
as the helicopter whisked itself away
and the backboard went back into the ambulance
and the boat slid under the bridge and out of sight

we clapped and clapped and then stopped clapping
and returned to our morning
and our ever so many mornings hence.

by Denver Butson
illegible address
Luquer Street Press, 2004