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From Connections: New York City Bridges in Poetry

Bridges

I was eleven or twelve the first time
I walked George Washington Bridge.

My mother had gone to pay a shiva call
and she wanted me out of the house;
She thought I was too young for death.

My mother’s second cousin, Henry, took me,
a girl from Brooklyn.

Even then I knew a bridge was meant for poetry.
I recited a Shakespeare sonnet,
low so Henry didn’t hear,
a better choice than Abou Ben Adam,
my repertoire from school.

I turned back half-way across,
as if I knew I should not go all the way.

I was a teenager when I crossed Brooklyn Bridge,
imagining myself walking with Whitman side by side.
I, too, singing a song of myself, still low,
still afraid to be heard.

Always Brooklyn Bridge out, never back.
That was for the Williamsburg—
from Hebrew school, from errands for my mother.
Back to where I began
so I could go forward once more.

I have crossed them all in time:
Kosciusko, Goethals, Verrazano, Throgs Neck,
Whitestone, Manhattan,
never again by foot.

New York is an island;
bridges are the way out—
and in.

I, too, am an island,
looking for a bridge out—
and in,
afraid of crossing to the other side.

Edith Chevat


Stars of Verrazano Bridge

Crossing the Verrazano I always sneak
an envious look at Lower Manhattan
and its lights; they’re stars that hang weightlessly
from the sky,
but so do apples on the tree,
maybe my head will too float like them,
weightless and free like all things that
leave the ground behind;
birds and chimney smoke,
gargoyles and the windows lit up
in a penthouse apartment
miles above the sidewalk
where the weight of the night
is hatching long dark ropes.

Paul Sohar


Brooklyn Bridge 3 A.M.

The first car crosses the first trestle
at two a.m. on a Monday morning,
a lonely thump, bump,
as the river roils dark brown beneath.

In the long cool in-between
of waking and sleeping,
the driver’s a quiet room,
occupied by encroaching city skyline.

No theory, little substance,
just a craning, searching light,
a mind reclaiming itself
out of chaos,
skyscraper stars,
momentary steel flashes.

John Grey

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