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The Iron Bridge

Written by: Billy Collins | Biography
 | Quotes (2) |
 I am standing on a disused iron bridge
that was erected in 1902,
according to the iron plaque bolted into a beam,
the year my mother turned one.
Imagine--a mother in her infancy, and she was a Canadian infant at that, one of the great infants of the province of Ontario.
But here I am leaning on the rusted railing looking at the water below, which is flat and reflective this morning, sky-blue and streaked with high clouds, and the more I look at the water, which is like a talking picture, the more I think of 1902 when workmen in shirts and caps riveted this iron bridge together across a thin channel joining two lakes where wildflowers blow along the shore now and pairs of swans float in the leafy coves.
1902--my mother was so tiny she could have fit into one of those oval baskets for holding apples, which her mother could have lined with a soft cloth and placed on the kitchen table so she could keep an eye on infant Katherine while she scrubbed potatoes or shelled a bag of peas, the way I am keeping an eye on that cormorant who just broke the glassy surface and is moving away from me and the iron bridge, swiveling his curious head, slipping out to where the sun rakes the water and filters through the trees that crowd the shore.
And now he dives, disappears below the surface, and while I wait for him to pop up, I picture him flying underwater with his strange wings, as I picture you, my tiny mother, who disappeared last year, flying somewhere with your strange wings, your wide eyes, and your heavy wet dress, kicking deeper down into a lake with no end or name, some boundless province of water.



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