A Song of Bridges


For the dedication of the reopening
of the Highway 43 Winona Bridge #5900

From: Ken McCullough

When I was a child, London Bridge kept falling down,
and heads on pikes bedecked the Tower Bridge.
Where I was born, on Staten Island, I saw the Goethals,
the Bayonne, the Outerbridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.
In the distance, the Tappan Zee, the George Washington.
In fantasies, Brig O’Doon, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto.
And back in dappled days, the Golden Gate,
the Ponte Vecchio, and the Bridge of San Luis Rey.
I sang “Under the Bridges of Paris” with Eartha Kitt.
As a teen, I crossed the Mackinac, the Verrazano, and the
Chesapeake Bay. After irony set in, the “Bridge Over
Troubled Waters” and the Bridges of Madison County.

I hope to see the Sydney Harbor Bridge some day,
the Wind and Rain Bridge, the Pont du Garde,
and the Pontchartrain Causeway, but I fear that’s just
a daydream. As I tip my Guinness to Alec Guinness
I must be content to whistle in solidarity with the
POW conspirators as they march toward the bridge
on the River Kwai —that’ll soon be blown sky-high.

Here in Winona, in 1942, we built a cantilevered bridge,
a beauty, plain and simple, that crossed the River
of Dreams into another state of being. I’ve seen her almost
every day, walked out to watch the night sky upriver,
or barges heading downriver in a mist, but our lady
had gotten creaky with age, and there was the rust.

Restore the old bridge or build a new one?
After all this back and forth, we’ve done both.
Our stately lady, refurbished and fresh
still crosses our fabled river, intact —
but next to her runs a sleek new mate.
Those of us with one foot still in the past
are satisfied, as are those who prefer
something a little more futuristic.
Should what we have made be a metaphor
for how we conduct our lives together?
Compromise doesn’t mean you’ve given in.

There are drawbridges, suspension bridges.
There are double-deckers, and footbridges
across misty chasms in the Andes.
They all serve to get us safely there and
back again, with a top-notch view to boot.
Thanks to those of us who worked together
to preserve this bridge to our heritage.
Now, we’ll always smile when we see her
and flush with pride when we cross her span.


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