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New York Bridges

March 20, 2012

by Joseph Harker

(for Walt, with love)

Keep your great earthworm-tunnels,
Keep your black depths, O underground, and the rattling steam through the soil,
Keep your pools of rainwater and the curious rats, and your cross-legged dime musicians,
Keep the cables lining the dark and the empty platforms of a permanent night;
Give me the rooftops—give me wooden water towers and old parapets invisible behind their graffiti!
Give me interminable lights—give me rivers—give me youths and madmen hanging out the windows!
Let me see the city while I’m suspended from the sky—let me dangle from Christmas streamers and crow!
Give me air and light—give me the Bridges of New York!
Give me the D-train with its wide orange eye that gazes forever on the shape and sway of Coney Island!
(The mermaids and carnivaliers call from the beaches—they swim upstream against the current,
Some waving, some singing, up at us on the train; we follow from their good example.)
Give me the pinnacles of the Brooklyn in a salt-spray dawn!
O move for me! O an ecstatic life, full of chatter and lightning!
The life of the huckster, bag-man, pole-gripping poet for me!
The bikes on the Williamsburg! the Roosevelt towers for me! the J and the Q and their hot silver blood!
The metal mouths of trains opening and closing, swallowing and spitting we rail-addled dreamers;
Nothing but people coming and going, every element but the prison of clay,
New York bridges like veins, umbilicals, the tramped-out procession of stories,
The twenty-four-hour symphony of steel and cement (even in the lowest hour of the moon,)
New York bridges, pressed up in sharp relief to the heavens!
New York bridges forever carry me.

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Joseph Harker used to do melodramatic renditions of TV commercials as a kid, which turned into a career in college theatre, which went nowhere; so now he’s writing poetry instead. His work has appeared in qarrtsiluni, Assaracus, MediaVirus, and other fine publications; he has also just self-published his first chapbook, Greeks Bearing Gifts. He lives in New York, blogs at naming constellations, and wanders everywhere else.

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  1. Irene Brown
    March 21, 2012 at 5:16 am

    Well, I’ve never been to New York and only seen it in films but this poem seems to take me there. Thanks!

  2. March 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Wonderful, Joseph. The rhythm in this is great. You captured Whitman and those awesome NYC bridges really well.

    I’ve tried to leave this comment several times today but couldn’t b/c I had to be logged into WP.com and couldn’t remember my password. A fortuitous thing, since it gave me the opportunity to reread a few times. Fine work.

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      Sorry about the difficulty in commenting now. WordPress.com’s new policy to require log-ins from anyone whose email is registered with Gravatar.com or WordPress.com is absurd. I’ve now lifted the requirement that commenters leave an email — that should make things a bit easier, I hope.

  3. March 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Oh, we should ALL write homages to Walt. This one should inspire others…

  4. March 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I always stood at the south-facing door on the D train going home to Brooklyn. Once, through the silhouette of the Brooklyn Bridge, the setting sun lined up directly behind the Statue of Liberty! I wanted to shout out to the indolent riders- Look at this! This is magical! How can you sit there with this magnificent view of this incredible city? But I didn’t. I will just remember it forever. Thank you for your tribute.

  1. March 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm
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