A Jest from the Speechless Caravan

 

(To the man who sold me the Brooklyn Bridge)

 

“Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft

A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,

Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,

A jest falls from the speechless caravan.”

                                        —Heart Crane

 

Raucous prophet of piston and steam,

Of lusty, symphonic gear and wheel;

Steeping the night in jackhammer dreams,

Why not the Bifrost road to Brooklyn?

Did water alone remain to love?

Did gravity weigh ostentatious?

Sad pilgrim of circular passage,

Seduced to the water nymph’s lethal

Kiss, honored laurite of the deep;

All is upon transformation’s edge.

Flesh surrenders to endurance but

What purpose is midwived in the deed?

What could be so congenial as

A bridge builder sipping at coffee

On the banks of an unspanned river?

The stones still grow, if tamed to the leash,

Trained to stark, right-angle discipline

And bent to the purpose of commerce.

Rivet and girder are bodied at

Least, things that speak to the nerves of skin;

Even the haunting cold is something.

I’ve never known a world not metal,

The elder gods of wood and leaf, all

Of them banished before my tenure.

Bard of apocalypse, bound in iron;

Our weary engine, it seizes and

Starts—seizes and starts—seizes and starts.

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