SWINGING BRIDGE

for Chuck Campbell

My stomach tightened with each step,
each plank taunting me to believe
steel and hemp could hold me.
Wanting to span the ravine, I tripped
and caught the cable, wood peeling my shin.

I scramble the cliff's angle
without pause, poised to find
the next hold. My toes
ache and I summon
your strength, rock-belief,
as my fingers hollow crevices.

Pressed to the bridge's edge, I stared
at the tangled threat of vines below until
your calm voice called for me to lift
my head. A spotlight haloed your face.

Blue hazes these summer hills
miles from the boulder-pocked
road where you stopped
to help another
frozen traveler. I sit
atop a ridge ages older
than the Rockies you called home.

That night you talked me taut and I stood;
relief rushed to color the pattern
twisted into my released palm. Days later,
you taught me how to swing, to slide
down the nylon like a spider guided

by instinct. I picture you on belay.
I descend unaided. At the end
of my rope waits the rhododendron
planted in your memory. With hands
cord-stamped as by the bridge
once more, I pick a blossom.

(c)Margaret J. Tinsley

?? Maggi Tinsley