“It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.”

— Jim Harrison


My light flicked off.

The Keeper swept
me from the bridge
with no beginning –
no end –
into the abyss.

All were walking
or being swept
except for the one perched
on the edge, dangling
his feet.

A curse: to pay admission…

and not get to see the credits roll.


* * *


This is Day 5 of Jilly’s “Days of Unreason” challenge.  We are facing daily prompts — quotes from the poetry of Jim Harrison — head-on, and recording the damage as poetry.  

26 thoughts on “Span

    • I’m not certain I can give you answers that cover it for everyone. One thought is that I carried onto the paper a quote I pulled from a book by Mary Kinzie: “Reading, like writing, hands over an abyss.” Or perhaps it is simply someone I imagined who has called time-out on the trip across the bridge of life. The title came to me after I’d written this, and it is so multi-faceted that I wish I could claim credit for the genius of it. Life Span. Span across the river. (Spic and Span… you know, the Keeper, sweeping away the detritus.) It left me as wondering as you. Does that mean it’s good? 🙂


      • It’s that language/culture thing again. The image of Keeper for you is a park attendant tidying up. They were already mythical where I was brought up, when I was a tot. Keeper for me recalls fantasy novels, as apart from a vague word meaning ‘one who keeps’ it doesn’t mean anything to me. Now you tell me park keeper and span as in spick-and-span I see the allusions. About the quote, not getting the allusion doesn’t matter as it speaks for itself. As a poem, I think it’s good, I just like to know what makes it work 🙂


      • I have a couple of resources listed on my blog, on the “Reference Books & Such” page. Most of use for understanding how poetry works — at least for me — would be either the Mary Kinzie or Edward Hirsch books. Hirsch is more accessible. I have been taking doses of Kinzie (a page, a quarter page at a time) for over a year. But they both do a great job of leading you to understanding how poetry works without seeming to. I, like so many poets, miss things in other people’s poetry. It’s frustrating, but I persist in learning. And, yes, Keeper has a fantasy fiction feel about her/him. Good call!


      • Actually, you might start with reading “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” by Thomas C. Foster. I took lit classes in college, but this little book took me deeper than even my Shakespeare class. It’s worth the read — buy it used.

        Just a thought…


  1. Oh, I don’t usually want explanations, but I want one now. Nobody gets to see the credits roll, just like nobody gets to see the start. We’re all dropped in part way through, going “who is that?”, “Why did he do that?”, “What’s going on?”…


  2. This is a dream, it feels like this life, the walk on a bridge with the anchors on either end obliterated. Keeper makes me think of soccer (but my daughter is a soccer keeper right now), but “span” makes me think of the daredevils who would walk the support spans of the big bridges, but it is perfect, seems lucidly clear, but just out of reach. Beautiful.


  3. Your words speak of life as it is, ” perched
    on the edge, dangling his feet.

    A curse: to pay admission…

    and not get to see the credits roll.”

    We only see the credits roll sometime.

    We are here, we plant seeds, without knowing
    what will happen in the future. Predictions are
    not good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your insightful, deep reading of my poem! You bring points which I hadn’t considered when I penned this. To be honest, it was merely a heart-response to the Harrison quote. I went into a quiet, untraveled place and put what I saw on the paper. I’m glad you came by, read and responded!


  4. I’m just guessing you’ve read Bridge, by Harrison, which we get to quite soon. I love this poem, Charley! The keeper, for me, is death; the broom is the sickle. The span is the ages and we only see a part of eternity – the part that is our own life. My light flicked off – death at the moment it occurs – what a unique way of looking at it! This is a superb response to the line!


  5. I missed this one, so going back from Day 10, but reading this one on its own. It seems like a scene in a larger piece to me–and it makes me think of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal–though I haven’t seen the movie in years–I really only remember Death and the knight (?) playing chess. It just made me think of something sort of surreal, but with a castle. 🙂


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