Poem of the Week | November 28, 2016

This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Rebecca Morgan Frank. Frank is the author of The Spokes of Venus (Carnegie Mellon UP 2016) and Little Murders Everywhere (Salmon 2012). She was a finalist for the 2013 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and her poems have appeared such places as Ploughshares, Guernica, New England Review, 32 Poems, and the Harvard Review. She received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola for her next manuscript in progress. Co-founder and editor of the online literary magazine Memorious, she is the Jacob Ziskind Poet in Residence at Brandeis University.
Author’s note:

When I submitted this poem to the Missouri Review, my mother was still alive. It seems fitting that she would leave me with this parting gift, a poem that was accepted a few weeks after her death. For the backstory of the poem is that when I was a girl, my mother was regularly driving me north to pursue my first love in the arts, ballet, at a performing arts boarding school and then a ballet company school. Through her own work in the arts, and each time she pressed the gas over a bridge, or along I95 N, my mother demonstrated what it was to keep moving forward even when gripped by everyday fears. What better lesson could a writer learn?


The Causeway


My mother used to tremble every time
we crossed the Potomac, the Delaware, every
river on the road North. Her body tightening
into a steel beam, as if it alone could hold
the bridge in place, the car afloat. She taught me
never to trust what was underneath you, to drive
right toward the liquor store near the motel, where
she’d melt the steel back to liquid, to watery
sleep. Every trip a chance to die again across
a bridge, and every breeze a threat. Even now,
I hate the feel of a ceiling fan, an open window,
anything that might blow me off course. Still,
my body turns to statue at this majestic gesture
of two roads across the water, the light glistening
to let me know I’ve left behind the closed doors
and am headed toward a city of life – I stay my course.
I imagine strongmen from the circus holding each
pylon in place and the fish swimming below me
whispering and feathering out knowing that they
have nothing to be afraid of anymore.
I want no part of their world, nor they, mine.