River Bridge by Kenneth Pobo

Illustration by Frank Sparrow

I fell for Greg, Tom, Curt, Deshawn, Allen, well, I had many before I turned twenty-five. Love was scissors and I was paper. It kept cutting into me. I wanted it to. Pain made me feel alive, not happy, but alive. Yet I grew leery. I made poor choices. Allen, the worst. I took a shower after we came home from the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. He seemed quiet, not too unusual. Between splashes I heard his car drive off, a clattery Buick with the back seat full of Madonna memorabilia. Love circled the drain.

Today the sky is like a bowling pin watching the ball come straight at it. I expect rain. That’s not so bad. Rain comforts me like crackers with butter. My friend Dana says that I have a faulty bullshit detector-I should harden my heart, make it impervious. Like if I stood out in a hail storm and nine-inch ice balls dropped on me I wouldn’t feel anything.
I guess this works for Dana. She’s been married to Grant, a pharmacist, for a dozen years. Is that how you get through marriage-all hardened?

On the oldies radio station after breakfast, my favorite DJ Johnny Proon played Tom Jones singing “Without Love (There Is Nothing).” He said that song makes him cry. Johnny is funny but sometimes he sounds like sad stories rumble behind the patter. Nothing? Most days have offerings, from a dahlia coming into bloom to a cold glass of water on a July afternoon. That’s something. Small mercies.

Years have hardened my heart but not so much that it’s bulletproof glass. Wary. Open. Like a bridge connecting two riverbanks. I walk slowly as I cross, hear water beneath me, my hand on the railing. Someone may be walking toward me.

KENNETH POBO had a new book of poems come out in May 2017 from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. His collection of micro-fiction, Tiny Torn Maps, came out from Deadly Chaps. His work has appeared in: Amsterdam Review, Buenos Aires Review, Two Thirds North, Hawaii Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Pennsylvania with his husband and two cats. He teaches creative writing and English at Widener University.

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