Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Northern Avenue Bridge

The Northern Avenue Bridge closed
years ago to motor traffic.
Pedestrians still cross unless

the red light blinks and the swing
span opens for water craft
on Fort Point Channel. Rusty

steelwork casts elaborate shadows
on the weed-trimmed deck. I pause
at the west end and note the swing

span open although no boats appear.
The channel looks deep enough
to float a cruise ship. If I dropped

from here I’d sink so far the flesh
would peel from the bone before
I ever touched bottom. Long ago,

bicycling over this bridge, I saw
two kids diving into the dark,
splashing like seals, laughing off

the threat of drowning and shouts
of the bridge-keeper whose shack
still clung to one abutment

reached by a long wooden stair.
That shack collapsed in a storm
at least forty years ago

and lingered as a ruin for two
more decades before slipping
forever into the dark. The shadows

cast by the girders look strong
enough to support real traffic
again, but the city engineers

in their finite wisdom declared
the weight-bearing impossible,
and for a long time considered

the swing span inoperable
and so propped it open for good.
Now it works again but only

for sloggers like me who prefer
their city travel slow and certain,
and who like to tempt ourselves

by crossing unsure dimensions
with all of our senses tingling
as shadow and light intersect.

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