Thoughts on Bridges

Today has been an exercise in bridging the gap and feeling the strain.  Sometimes in this public writing forum, I can’t authentically convey the stories of what comes my way while living into my Lenten intention  of proximity without oversharing around issues impacting others.  So, instead, I want to reflect for a few minutes on this idea of bridging the gap in a very real and vulnerable way…the lesson is here, not the stories.

I sometimes think that the role of the bridge builder is diminished by being socially elevated as a never-ending supply of giving, as though those of us who span the distance between people have the capacity to stretch without breaking.  It isn’t true.  We actually sometimes snap and give way.  We realize that in our attempts to build proximity, we are not fortified enough, or the distance is too great.  The realization comes that even if a bridge is needed and desired, we can’t actually keep being the bridge without the right kind of supports: internal, external, existential.

I find myself having burned some bridges today, and built others.  I also find myself reflecting tonight that both are necessary parts of the same whole.  Some bridges are well intended, but not structurally sound; they need to come down before someone gets hurt.  Some bridges will be stronger for what I can offer of myself in extending from one side to the other with the support and suspension from above and below.  In my attempts at bridging, I have been prayerful.  In these attempts, I have gained wholeness and awareness of both limits and capacity.

I found this poem speaking loudly and clearly to me tonight.  Kate Rushin, poet and black feminist comes through for me on this day.  So, I share her poem, with gratitude for her vulnerable authenticity and spoken truth on which I continue to reflect:

The Bridge Poem

I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Can talk to anybody
Without me Right?

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…

I’ve got the explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I’m sick of it

I’m sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your human-ness

I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf you your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self

Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

-Kate Rushin from This Bridge Called My Back (1981)
edited by: Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Or listen, read by the author, here: Kate Rushin reads The Bridge Poem

bridge night

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
This entry was posted in Lent 2017 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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