The Arch

Forty-eight thousand tons of concrete and steel rise,
curving high into the air. 
After twenty five years, here I am again
walking toward the gleaming St. Louis Arch
beside the clay colored Mississippi.
Forty-eight thousand tons—
as fathomable to me as the weight of the earth,
the space between the stars,
the stretch of the past.  I measure
the past in inches, in rings, in memories.
The past curves and rises—an arch, a door. 
Twenty five years ago six of us
walked this walkway to the arch. 
The maples lining the way were small and spindly;
I could circle their trunks with my little hands. 
My father said, “Think about it.  Someday
when you’re grown you’ll come back
with your kids, and these trees will be big by then.” 
My sons hear this story and watch
as I try to circle one of the trees with my big hands—
too small now to make a ring
around the solid trunk.  We look up
into the heights of leaves and shade.
For once my father was right.  Standing
with my mother, he must have watched
my sisters and me running toward the arch,
then looked up and felt the weight
of his own years rising and bending
the way backbones bend, or legs bow
as we grow old.  We grow old.

Matthew Murrey has published poems in journals such as Rattle, Ascent and Poetry East. He continues to send out his first-book manuscript of poems. He’s worked many jobs, though for about 12 years he worked with adults who had serious mental illnesses, and for the last 16 years he’s been a high school librarian in central Illinois. His website is at

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