From Connections: New York City Bridges in Poetry

A Poem Not About The Brooklyn Bridge

Shopping for discounted Christmas cards, post-season,
my partner holds up a box he’d think be perfect. Baby,
I say, that’s the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge.
So? He replies. We live in Queens, remember? I say,
and the other cheap ass customers laugh. It’s not like
anyone outside this city can even tell the difference,
he mumbled. And the Brooklyn Bridge is all they got.

For the record, world, Queens has got beautiful bridges, too.
There’s the 59th Street Bridge (which Simon and Garfunkel
named their “Feeling Groovy” song after! my partner adds),
also known as Queensborough Bridge (And you can see it
in opening credits of “Taxi,” my partner adds), and I dare
you to drive over it after midnight, zooming yourself out
of the Manhattan skyline, hurtling towards all that neon,
over Roosevelt Island, to Silver Cup Studios billboard
(Where the Highlanders once fought! my partner adds again)
and try to hold your grateful hand over your tender heart.

My partner and I live in Astoria between two bridges:
the Triborough, which we are now expected to call RFK,
and the stern red East River Arch Bridge, which everyone
knows is called Hell Gate Bridge. Every morning I stare
at these bridges while waiting for N train, and every night
they wink at me as I walk home, even on the worst days,
like the winter when the Triborough wore an enormous
American flag on its southern face, so we’d have something
bright and solid to hang our eyes on, when we grew sick
of leering at all the bellowing ash and stubborn black smoke.

Even now, my partner and I walk to the river each weekend,
to Astoria Park, which was designed with us in mind: young
and hungry workers who burn hard all week and just want
a bit of green grass, a few bracing trees to remind us we are human.
We walk around the park like a couple of fat monks,
quiet and grateful, the cars thundering across the Triborough,
Hell Gate bracing for another Amtrak train, the water whipping
over rocks, churning up a tinkling coastline of beer bottles
slowly turning into bright green and pale brown sea glass.

Some days I think we are those beer bottles, slapped against
the city until we are forced to be more beautiful. Other times,
I think we are the park, still green and hopeful, in willful spite
of everything around us. But the best times, I think we are
the bridges, tying together where we were to where we are,
beautiful and strong and doing our job, even if no one takes
our picture, even if no one remembers our names.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

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