I probably like to write more than I like to read. Yet, we all know that for one to write well it is important to read well, too … or is it to be well-read? Oh well, when it comes to reading, I am extremely selective. If it’s not in my wheelhouse, you can be sure I’m not going to read it. That’s too bad, for I am sure that I have missed out on some great writings.
Poetry and short stories always were my favorite, probably because I could see the end coming soon after the beginning. Big, fat books scare me; little books are sweet and less intimidating. I can remember as far back as high school reading and writing poetry. My sister and I used to mail each other poems we wrote when we attended college. My father also would send us poems and little cartoons. My mom is the monster-book reader. She can take a thick book and dissect it in just a few days.
I was cleaning out my closet a while back and gave a box of old cassette tapes to a friend of mine to sort through. She brought one back to me and said, “You will want to keep this one.”
It was an audio tape of a memorial service we had for my father about a year after he died. Many of our friends and family up North could not make the trip south for his initial service, so we planned one for the community where he was from later that following year.
The audio tape had two poems that I had all but forgotten. The first poem was one I had sent to my father in 1985 on his birthday. It still was in his briefcase when he died in 1994. Dad was the embodiment of selfless devotion to others; always trying to help people along the journey of life.
The poem is “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole. It first was published in the early 1900s and remains a favorite today, gracing plaques on bridges and also being used by fraternities to stress the morale value of building links for the future:
“An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
“The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“’Old man,’ said a fellow pilgrim near,
‘You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide?
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?’”
“The builder lifted his old gray head:
‘Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
‘There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.’”
The second poem was one I had written the day prior to his memorial service. That one will be for another day.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.