I read this poem twice. I skimmed the lines quickly the first time. Then a few minutes later, I reread it and thought more about it. The poem has metaphorical moments and is a metaphor in itself. I think that the title of the poem, "The Bridge" is a metaphor for storytelling. To connect with a listener, the storyteller must be able to "walk across a bridge" of eventful happenings, engaging words, etc. However, sometimes the story reaches its climax slowly or is not very eventful and thus the storyteller has to "dive into" the story more deeply to save it. I feel like Author Peavahouse symbolizes the attempt to save a story. The mother and the two children he saves symbolize the rescue of a drowning story. The child he fails to save symbolizes a story that loses the interest of the audience even after the storyteller attempts to save it.
On a different note, Clyde Maples may also be a metaphor for storytelling. Clyde Maples may be the one listener who doesn't accept the story and refuses to accept the "story-truth," so that he goes down to the core of the story to search for the real meaning. However, he could also symbolize just a listener who thirsts for the theme of the story or how it applies to his life personally.
This poem is a metaphor for storytelling. It tells the importance of a connection or "bridge" between the storyteller and the listener and it tells of the tragedy if the storyteller fails to connect with the reader; the story will drown. However, if the story is overly detailed and does not get to the action, the listener will "drown" in the language of the story and will not receive the message the storyteller is endeavoring to convey.