“Suspension Bridge”

Listen to Alan Shapiro reading this poem.

Inbound over the Mystic River,
V on V of girders out
the window and beyond the V’s
a smokestack gushing smoke that billows
hugely white against the darkness

and, even drifting, seems somehow
more solid than the span it drifts
across and swallows up entirely,
the bridge suspended from a cloud.
Sensation of war. Deployments.

Little lights along the catwalks
and ladders running up and down
the water towers near the shore,
and headlights shining into taillights
flashing on and off as far

as where the lanes converge and branch
off into ramps that cars swerve out
in front of other cars to take,
while other cars swerve out from on-ramps,
speeding or slowing as they merge.

Sensation of war. Of being mobilized.
Each urgent vehicle, each signal
and counter signal, flash of brake
light, finger reaching for the scan,
the tuner—all the too-small-

as-small maneuvers of a massive
operation, effect of orders
being passed down through a steel
chain of command, from car to car,

from bridge to central artery
to boulevard and avenue and street
through the deserted civic heart
of picture windows that the headlights
soon will sweep across, sweeping

across like searchlights over
the momentary faces and torsos
of manikins arranged like decoys
in civilian dress, in all
the postures of suspended living.