Friday, November 26, 2010

Reminiscing about Danville Bridge

I always go home for the holidays.  I grew up in Tennessee Ridge, which is where my wife and I spent our Thanksgiving last night with my family.  This entire area of the mid-state is very rural.  The instant I cross the county line, I'm flooded with a full range of emotion and nostalgia for my late teens and backroad-driving, woods-tromping, creek-swimming good times.  I find it no coincidence the work of art which I chose to finish up tonight: an illustration I sketched out months back inspired by a bridge a few of us know about and had some candid moments around, on, in, and occasionally (for some) climbing on and/or falling off of.  I'd always wanted to do a drawing of the actual bridge, but here is the work inspired by it...

The Danville Bridge doesn't exist any more (as far as how we knew it.)  A bridge at one time crossed Kentucky Lake and connected Houston and Benton Counties.  I'm assuming when trains stopped running the tracks, Benton County demolished their side.  What was left was a framed bridge which ran about a quarter of the way out into the lake and stopped.  Well, we thought this was the coolest damn place in the world to sneak out to and hang out when we were in high school (and shortly thereafter.)  The walk to the edge was scary as hell considering at some point they had taken out the planks for about the first twenty yards from the water's bank to discourage people from venturing out onto it.  Some wonderful (and acrobatic) soul had remedied this at some point before we came along by welding a steel mesh walkway out to what was left of the bridge.  Heading out, you're looking straight down through this 18 inch wide mesh to the rocky lakeside, which was upwards of 40-50 feet below.  With no guard rails and nothing on either side of you but a loooooong drop down, hold your breath and keep looking forward.  A couple years ago, a local family purchased the land now and has since blocked access to the bridge from the public, isolating my experiences of this infamous spot to those which have already been played out.

In early 2000, I had abandoned my visual arts skills for those of the pen and paper and the limitless verse swarming in my head.  I was never to be found without a notebook (and I filled several in a three year period.)  Writing is a young man's sport and I figured I had to get my practice and drills in every chance I caught the fever of words in my brain.  One late night, I ventured out to Danville Bridge with a few of my close friends, we were on the tail end of an LSD trip and wanted to see the sun come up somewhere beautiful that morning.  Here is the poem inspired by the experience from my collection of poems entitled Dip and Trip .45, which you can preview and purchase here at Lulu Press.


walking about the gloom of blue shade
          and picking seeds
a softening pattern of graffiti
    on the palimpsest stomach of the bridge

names and stipulation-
hyperventilating hodgepodge of remembrance    
          speaking quiet languages
a collected ground
          tenacious spirit
timeless in the undulated blackness

chimps limbering about the caged casing-
          a rust iron skeleton

edges of eternity
          with the clause
          that an edge is not an end
          nor a barrier

the stars grew and withdrew
          blue highlights of cloud
          made love to the horizon

i became

the sun winked over miles
          and with feathery breath,
gradated color
          into nativity

i beheld grass growing from wood planks
          at the lip of conception

This was a very small and intricate work, so I got a perspective shot.  It's hard to make out all the detail in the scan, especially the tiny eyes throughout the sky I did with a .005 flesh-tone pen... 

UPDATE 12/07/10

I just found a blast from the past... I had forgotten all about it!  This illustration was composed using a reference photo I took of the bridge about ten years ago.  The drawing is from 2005...

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