By George Scarbrough 1915–2008 George Scarbrough
Green and brown current of river:
Reverberant iron bridge: crossing over,
Woman and child fixed at the center,
Holding hands and both weeping:

Because her child is weeping: because
His mother weeps: because the river, far
Underfoot, glitters through cracks
In the wooden flooring that widen

Perceptively as he steps.
Ahead, heightened by a hill, dwarfed
In yellow trees, the house is made ready.
All should have been primer-perfect,

Including the train rushing headlong
Past the station, always in arrears,
Never deigning to stop and put down
A stepping-stool. Nothing more is given:

Except perhaps an assignment of cause:
A plank has fallen away to the river.
The two figures clasp hands across the gulf,
Rocking back and forth in soundless

Oscillation there on the bridge
Where my mind proposes to leave them
In place, my mother and me,
On the first day of school, 1921.

Source: Poetry (September 1999).


This poem originally appeared in the September 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

September 1999


Born on a farm in eastern Tennessee, poet George Scarbrough was one of seven children of a sharecropping farmer. He was educated at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of the South, and Lincoln Memorial University, where he earned a BA. He then earned an MA at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he also completed coursework toward a PhD. He earned an MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ . . .

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Poems by George Scarbrough

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Living, School & Learning, Landscapes & Pastorals, Youth, Activities, Nature, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Metaphor

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