The Bridge I Must Walk Across (David Adès)

The Bridge I Must Walk Across

Is this what it means to be lost?
Stuck inside my skin —
unable to shed it, unable to grow another —

I am between desolations:
between the man I have been
and the man I must become.

My life’s stories are in flames,
becoming black smoke, ascending.
Who will speak now the tales of the ancestors,

who will listen, who will hear?
Who will be guardian of their old ways,
who will tend to their burial grounds,

calm them in their restless prowling?
I am a vessel for what I carry, untranslatable,
legacies it has taken a lifetime to learn:

who will pour me out, who will drink me?
Who will read to me this new book
of the night sky, its panoply of trembling stars?

Who will decipher the strangeness all around,
who will gather all the broken shards?
How can I discard myself, all that I am?

I am becoming a stranger inside my skin,
my children becoming
the bridge I must walk across.

This Shall Not Be Taken

All this talk of beginnings —
as if we could unwind ourselves
                                           from our own history,

from the cultural baggage
that is the frame, the walls, the house,

as if it is destination that matters
and not journey.

Beginnings go back
                      to where we cannot go:
the road ahead opens
as the road behind closes

and what has been left there
and what is known.

What we drag with us
in our nakedness
                      leaving furrows in the path:

the weight of our dispossession,
the dead gods of our childhood,
thicknesses of scar tissue.

We promise each other nothing,
know that even if we stop
                      arrival is illusion.

Wherever we are,
we have dust on our feet,
we huddle like timid sheep,

we look for shelter in each other’s eyes:
the only place we can find it.


Come to strange and distant shores.
Come to a strangeness of birdsong
and leaf, where the sun burns differently

in the sky and there is no sureness of foot.
Come, where you will trip and stumble
on hidden rocks of language and meaning,

carrying your baggage of other customs,
your baggage of kin and history,
carrying fears and hopes for safety,

the color of your skin, the ill-fitted
speech of your tongue.  Come, find
welcome where there is welcome,

however sporadic, however cautious.
Feel the warm breeze of welcome
on your cheek, rough hewn but not unkind.

Rest in the shade of the tree of welcome,
its gnarled limbs, its broad canopy.
Plant your seeds nearby

where they can take root, grow strong.
This will be your home now,
where you, in turn, will open your arms.

* ‘The Bridge I Must Walk Across’ and ‘This Shall Not Be Taken’ were first published in Social Alternatives
* ‘Welcome’ was first published in Philadelphia Poets

Friendly Street reading 2.7.11 (1)David Adès has recently returned to Australia after living for five years in Pittsburgh. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet and short story writer and the author of Mapping the World (Wakefield Press / Friendly Street Poets, 2008) and the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eterna(Garron Publishing, 2015).

David won the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Prize (2005). Mapping the World was commended for the Fellowship of Australian Writers Anne Elder Award 2008.

David has been a member of Friendly Street Poets since 1979. He is a former Convenor of Friendly Street Poets and co-edited the Friendly Street Poetry Reader 26. He was also one of a volunteer team of editors of the inaugural Australian Poetry Members Anthology ‘Metabolism’ published in 2012. His poetry has been published in numerous journals in Australia and the U.S. with publications also in Israel, Rumania and New Zealand.

David’s poems have been read on the Australian radio poetry program Poetica and have also featured on the U.S. radio poetry program Prosody. He is one of 9 poets featured on a CD titled ‘Adelaide 9’. In 2014 David won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. He was recently Highly Commended in the 2016 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize.