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Nine Mile Bridge

By Harry Winston

Last week I was going through a bookcase in my cabin up north when I came across a Moleskine notebook that I had rescued about thirty years ago from the Little Manistee River. It’s mostly filled with barely legible notes but on a few pages there are some neatly printed poems that were written, I have always assumed, by the same person who tossed the notebook into the river one late summer evening off Nine Mile Bridge.

I was fishing in the sharp bend just upriver from the bridge when I heard a motorcycle stop down the road and a few minutes later noticed a young man leaning over the concrete railing. I had just caught and released a good sized rainbow and was sitting near the river bank on a half-submerged log behind the low hanging branches of a pine tree smoking my pipe. I watched him balance an object on the railing then he lit a cigarette and stared down at the river.

I watched him while he smoked. Every so often he would pick up what turned out to be the notebook, flip through the pages, and then place it back on the railing. When he was finished smoking he crushed the cigarette against the concrete and deposited the butt in the pocket of his flannel shirt. He picked up the notebook, put it back down, picked it up again, hesitated, and then flipped it into the river. He watched it for a few moments before walking away.

I was about to start fishing again when I saw the half submerged notebook rushing by in the current. I reached over and scooped it up with my net and looked through it briefly before putting it in the creel of my fishing vest. A few minutes later the motorcycle sped north across the bridge. That night I read the poems while drinking a few bourbons in the Elk Tavern and for the next five years or so I kept the notebook in my glovebox but never saw the young man again.

I’ve occasionally wondered about him over the years — whether he was married, if he had children, what he did for a living. I wondered whether he kept on writing poetry and, the biggest wonder of all, what made him throw the notebook into the river. And I have always wondered what I should do with the poems and whether or not I should share them. After finding and reading them again this past week, I finally decided that I should. Here’s the first one.

Meditation on a Morning Moon 
This morning the moon shining bright Through barren branches removing Night time shadows from your sleeping face Made me think of how you’re drifting into orbit, (Becoming as distant as the moon), your Light reflecting now through cold space I’m Holding you only by the gravity of memories. Sometimes the moon seems so close you can touch it. I reached out this morning and brushed a hand Against its softness, then looked on helpless, As it faded into the day.
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