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Feb 2017
A Burner on the Bridge

A burner on the bridge.  A human burns,
Trapped in technology and beer and fire
We hear the cold dispatch, the desperate call
To go, to see, to mend, if possible
We drive.  The flashers, blue and red, rotate
In the startled faces of those we pass
At speed, Hail Mary speed, surreal speed
Time, motion, space, and light obscure the night

In a pattern tail lights wink dim, then bright
Stalled traffic makes a long glowworm in reds
Boats, trailers, trucks, tankers, Volkswagens, Fords,
People in shorts drift around, slug Cokes, laugh
Unshaven men smoke cigarettes and swear
Blue-haired killers in Chrysler New Yorkers
Blink blankly through bifocals in the glare
Of flashers and flashlights, flares and taillights.
A burner on the bridge.  A Human burns.

We drive slowly through the curious crowds
Who mill about and stare and point and laugh
They consider a charred corpse fair reward
For being delayed on their trip home from the lake
When they ‘rive home they’ll hoist stories and yip:
“I was there; I seen it, man; it was gross!”
But some already are anxious to go
They honk, and pop a top, and cuss the cops.
A burner on the bridge.  A human burns.

Below the bridge, old, silent water lurks
Oozing warmly, fetidly, in its drift
Slithering blackly in the warm spring night
A silent observer of fire and death
A carrier of beer cans and debris,
Radiator coolant, plastic, and blood
Concrete pylons pounded into the mud
Where once were trees.  And now the water sees
A burner on the bridge.  A human burns.

The bridge is an altar.  The wreckages
Are vessels sacred to our gods, the dead
Are sacrifices to our gods, an incense of death
Our offering is broken flesh, and blood:
“The is my body, burnt on this spring night;
This is my blood, shed on the center stripe.
A burner on the bridge.  A human burns.

A shapeless hat among the smoking ash,
Old clothes, a shoe, cans of beer, fishing lures:
The sad trifles and trinkets of the dead
Now, firemen in their yellow rubber suits
Climb slowly through the tortured, broken steels
And gently stow a man into a bag
Ashes and smoke, green radiator fluid
The old river flows, wherever it goes.
A burner on the bridge.  A human burned.

Hours later: coffee at the Dairy Queen
High school baseball players yelp cheerfully as
They wreck fast cars in a video game.
Under the fluorescents, the flashers seem
Still to turn, endlessly turn, in the night
Hamburgers, possibly char-broiled, are gulped
Sloppily, laughingly, as cleated feet
And deep-fried breath cheer a video death.
A burner on the bridge.  A human burned.

A burner on the bridge.  A human burned.
Written by
Lawrence Hall
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