P.W. Bridgman was not who he appeared to be. He belonged in a comic book. Not Marvel but DC, a justice league of one. But unlike his superhero peers, Bridgman’s alter ego hung up his crime-fighting cape-like robes, having completed his mean street crusade and has since retreated with dignity to his residency – a creative fortress of solitude – his poetic domain.
I don’t know if this is in fact true. I like to believe so. I’ve spent time with both characters – the likeable Bruce Wayne persona as well as skilled poet P.W. Bridgman. A Lamb not only welcomes us into the author’s realm, but props open the door to his secret citadel.
Bridgman’s musicality and romance language fluency come through in meter, tempo and an umami-esque richness in each lyrical line. His narrative style can seamlessly deliver razor wit – BAM – with a heart-rending KAPOW!
From the outset, lamb triggers a mosaic of metaphor – frailty, play, sacrifice, and slaughter. Our journey’s mapped, Charon sporting a sardonic grin as he loosens a hawser line in Time’s Forward Gear. “Mister D’Eath leans calmly in the doorway – / spectral, handsomely framed, a stylish flâneur.”
Bridgman simultaneously guides and conducts, directing the reader while encouraging free jazz interpretation. Three Lamentations bebops us from 7/4 Time through Thirty-Six Bars with an al coda skip to Sonnet Form, pulling us back toward the ferry with a bard’s barbs. But in No Writers Were Harmed in the Making of This Whiskey, we simply can’t shake the hook, coaxed on monofilament to an inevitable net and priest. “Kathleen, Fionnuala and Valeria revel in their / unknowing freedom. Glad and carefree, they / periodically check their new highlights and twilights / in the Vauxhall’s rear-view mirror. They laugh / and chatter while, as the afternoon fades, / Kathleen drives them all home from the hairdresser’s / in Magherafelt back to Knockcloghrim – / to Knockcloghrim where a cheap quartz clock / ticks bravely on and where, like an unexploded artillery shell, / the end of the world awaits their return.”
Another nod to Northern Ireland and the Ulsterbus bombing, which Bridgman weaves home to Canada by way of Heaney and Sinéad Morrissey – a tidy transatlantic crisscross, in There Was Fire in Magherafelt. “There were no surviving signs, no pitting of nearby concrete even / (we looked); / no memorials nor misspelled spray-can epitaphs: Tiocfaidh ár lá!”
Knowing precisely when we’re due for recess from deliberation, our author/mediator delivers laconic humour with V-P Sales, One Year Into Retirement. “New man-bun. / Same / old / head.”
And from our side of the pond Bridgman once more pays poetic homage, this time to the best blacksmith in The Purdy Poems, with Party of the Second Part and For God’s Sake, Geddes, Call Him ‘Al.’ To my delight I was there to witness Bridgman wave his bladed poem at a receptive Geddes like a well-versed, affectionate mugger. “I didn’t guess, tho, that at sixty- / five I’d sit myself down to / pen you a jeezly billet– / doux; that I’d find myself / writing you a god- / damned, buck / knife-shaped / love po- / em / V”
No, P.W. Bridgman was not who he appeared to be. For the longest time, the mild-mannered crime-fighter lead a double life, an accomplished poet. A Lamb proves it. I didn’t intend to unmask the man. Kindly keep it a secret. Our metropolis needs him.
First published in Canadian Poetry Review.
About the Author: P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has earned undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology and a degree in law as well. Bridgman’s writing has appeared in anthologies published in Canada, Ireland, England and Scotland, and his first book—a selection of short stories entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age—was published in 2013.