Poetry Porch: Poetry


The Need for a Bridge
by Joyce Wilson

What Kind of Bridge?

           “New Bridge Is Unlikely before 2020.”
                 —The Boston Globe April 17, 2008.

What kind of bridge for the Fore River span?
A safer bridge for people, cars, and boats;
Not one that adds to traffic and complaints;
A bridge that we can love, not love to hate.

The Fore River Bridge, 1994

The thoroughfare was broken by the tides
That swelled the bays and rivers twice a day,
And so a compromise was made, pairing
Counterweighted leaves, supporting piers.

To cross it is to hurry up and wait,
One length forward, and then the siren warns,
The guard lights blink, the bar comes down slowly.
A boy dragging his feet would best describe

The speed of iron grillwork floor uprising,
Its patterns rippling in reflective light.
At rest, or stuck, we watch the tanker pass,
Our patience tested by its sluggish pace.

We cannot cross until the behemoth
Is guided to its stall. We curse the bridge.
Its flooring up, it shudders like a sail
That will not take its sailors anywhere.

But once the roadway falls back into place
And we inch forward over the river
We can begin our habit to forget
The inconvenience that defined our day.

Ferry Point, before 1800

     (Details embellished from “History of Fore River Bridge Reflects
     Continuous Progress,”The Quincy Patriot Ledger, August 4, 1934)

Colonial houses
and tall elegant elms
line the pretty street
where the river flows
from the east to the west.
A ferry breaks the waves
and barely makes a sound.
Miss Sally Fulton brings
her phaeton to a halt
at the Fore River bank
as the approaching boat
nuzzles through the wavelets
and softly bumps the shore.
Once the carriage lurches
onto the ferry bed,
the nervous look of her
mare over its shoulder,
the rustling of her skirts
in the sudden summer gusts
might’ve spoken to her then
Of the need for a bridge.

The Bascule Bridge, 2005

The traffic unleashed, I am a part of it,
Crossing the bridge after it opened for
The tanker bringing fuel oil for our use
Into the shipyard, even though it’s closed.

Open, the bridge is no longer a bridge.
With its arms raised, it is a barrier
To progress that infects like a headache
Or that immobilizes like a flu.

Bascule combines the Old French word for low
Or bas, with Latin for backside, or cul,
So that whenever one end is brought down,
The other is upraised, like the drawbridge

That separated castles from the world
In days of chivalry, those ancient days
When time stood still and livelihoods were kept
Within stone walls that seldom gave way or fell.

But we are practical people in these
Pragmatic-minded towns, and studies show
That the seesaw design of the bascule
Is losing to that of vertical lift.

A History of the Bridge
     Through Headlines from The Patriot Ledger

The story of the boulder on the scow
That threw the draw one summer day, July,
Nineteen Eighteen, when boat and rock were fixed
Beneath the bridge until the tides went out,
Had prompted a new floor in Nineteen Twenty-five,
That the first bridge was razed and replaced in
Nineteen Thirty-four with the bascule design,
That the bridge failed to open in ’Thirty-Seven
And failed to close in Nineteen Fifty-one,
That draw-tenders were asked to aid in the
Curbing of spying, Nineteen Thirty-nine,
And a crude bomb removed in ‘Sixty-eight,
That the birds who came in Nineteen Seventy
Were urged to leave with a recorded cry,
Then poisoned by the DPW;
That the woman who leaped from the railing
Did not die in Nineteen Seventy-four
Because she landed in forgiving sand;
But the boy driving through heavy rains did
Die, and his father blamed the bridge; with signs
Protesting that the surface weave could kill;
Now the flexible bascule bridge has been
Replaced by a vertical lift design
Until the towns decide what kind they want;
Now in the town report, the space beneath
The heading “aesthetics” has been left blank.

Personal History

     In Memory of Malcolm Goldie, 1893-1959

The bell rang every day at 4:30
To call the end of the afternoon shift,
And we rushed from our grandparents’ new place
On Commonwealth down to the yard, where on

The walk, making his way home, we met Gramp,
A Scot with the American Soccer League
Who worked at Quincy Shipyard for the war
While he coached for the team at MIT.

To launch a ship, spectators lined the bridge,
Cheered as the champagne cracked against its side,
Heard the dignitaries’ speeches, and witnessed
The cruiser’s slide from its berth to the sea.

Shipbuilding and ships, commerce and transportation:
Asbestos might have done in Gramp, who loved
His game and work and family, and died
In his mid-sixties of a lung disease.

Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Wilson.