Four Bridge Poems
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 Ferry: Up to 1800
Seventy-year-old Miss Sally Fulton
Was waiting for the ferry on her way
From Quincy to Hingham, where land was split
By rivers, one called Fore, the other Back.
She could have circled back, around, and north
Up Payne’s Hill through Braintree on winding roads;
Instead she headed south, a line direct
To Ferry Point, low on the Quincy side.
She watched the tiny flatbed ferry floating
Toward her over murky river waves,
Her horse uneasy as the phaeton leaned
Against the slope of gravel underfoot.
Once they had lurched onto the rocking deck,
The nervous look of her gray mare, white-eyed,
And sudden rustling sounds loosed from her skirts,
Their snap against the gusts portending rain,
Might have spoken to her just then as signs
Of changing tides and the need for a bridge.
The Commuter: Frustration in Contemporary Times
The guard-lights blink, the bar comes down. A boy
Dragging his feet would best describe the speed
Of iron grillwork flooring inching up,
Its patterns rippling in reflective light.
Progress has become hurry up and wait,
One length forward, and then the siren warns;
At rest, or stuck, we watch the tanker pass
Below, our patience tested by its fate.
We cannot cross until the laden ship
Has cleared the measured span. We curse our luck.
The upraised flooring shudders like a sail
That will not take its sailors anywhere.
The Librarian: A Brief History
Through Headlines from The Patriot Ledger
The first was nothing but a timber pile.
In Eighteen Twelve, they tried the swing design.
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,
Foretold the brand new floor of ’Twenty-five;
But then, in ’Thirty-four, that bridge was down,
Razed and replaced with the bascule design,
Which failed to open in ’Thirty-Seven
The draw-tenders were asked to help out in
The curbing of spying, Nineteen Thirty-nine,
And a home-made bomb removed in ’Sixty-eight.
The birds who came in Nineteen Seventy
Were urged to leave with a recorded cry,
Then poisoned by the DPW.
The lone woman who leaped from the railing
Did not die in Nineteen Seventy-four
Because she landed in forgiving sand,
But the boy driving through the 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
Condemned, in Nineteen Eighty-six, and paired
With an experimental 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.
The Player, His Crossing Pass
In Memory of Malcolm Livingston Goldie, 1895-1964
Each day, the shipyard horn announced the time
and changing shift. The children ran to find
their Grandfather, who walked up from the yard
on Commonwealth, and met them open-armed.
He worked at Quincy Shipyard for the war
And watched designs assembled on the floor
Balloon and blossom into finished drafts
Of battle. He fitted pipes and lined the shafts.
Destroyers, cruisers, warships, carriers
Were launched before the bridge where co-workers
All cheered as champagne cracked against the sides
That slid from berth to sea to meet the tides.
But that was part of his second career.
He came from Scotland decades earlier
To sign with the American Soccer League,
Who saw he had supply to meet demand,
How he moved to make the sweet assist
With ambidextrous skill, the crossing pass
That Archie Stark would pound into the goal.
Consistently, their parts defined the whole.
Each time he ran from far to middle ground,
He drew spectators just to see him play,
Then coached the college team at MIT,
Until an injured vertebrae, and he moved on.
From Clydebank, he arrived and made his name.
“One of the top wingers to play the game.”
Pipe fitter, team player, asbestos in his lung.
He died at sixty-nine, a man still young.
Copyright © 2012, revised 2017 by Joyce Wilson.
To appear with Finishing Line Press 2019 as part of a chapbook “The Need for a Bridge.”