Fall 2009

A Poem Not About the Brooklyn Bridge

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

Shopping for discounted Christmas cards, post-season,
my partner holds up a box he’d think be perfect. Baby,
I say, that’s the BrooklynBridge. The BrooklynBridge.
So? He replies. We live in Queens, remember? I say,
and the other cheap ass customers laugh. It’s not like
anyone outside of this city can even tell the difference,
he mumbled. And the BrooklynBridge is all they got.

For the record, world, Queens has got beautiful bridges, too.
There’s the 59th Street bridge (which Simon and Garfunkel
named their “Feeling Groovy” song after! my partner adds),
also known as Queensborough Bridge (And you can see it
in opening credits of “Taxi,” my partner adds), and I dare
you to drive over it after midnight, zooming yourself out
of the Manhattan skyline, hurtling towards all that neon,
over Roosevelt Island, to the Silver Cup Studios billboard
(Where Highlanders once fought! my partner adds again)
and try not to hold a grateful hand over your tender heart.

My partner and I live in Astoria between two bridges:
the Triborough, which we are now expected to call RFK,
and the stern red East River Arch Bridge, which everyone
calls Hell Gate. Every morning I stare at these bridges
while waiting for N train, and every night they wink at me
as I walk home, even on the worst days,  like the winter
when the Triborough wore an enormous American flag
on its southern face, so we’d have something bright and
solid to hang our eyes on, after we grew sick of leering
at all the bellowing ash and stubborn black smoke.

Even now, my partner and I walk to the river each weekend,
to Astoria Park, which was designed with us in mind: young
and hungry workers who burn hard all week and just want
a bit of green grass, a few bracing trees to remind us we are
human. We walk around the park like a couple of fat monks,
quiet and grateful, the cars thundering across the Triborough,
Hell Gate bracing for another train, water whipping over rocks,
churning up a tinkling coastline of  broken beer bottles slowly
turning into sparkling brown and bright green sea glass. 

Some days I think we are those beer bottles, slapped against
the city until we are made into something new. Other times,
I think we are that park, still green and hopeful, in willful spite
of everything around us. But the best times, I think we are
those bridges, tying together where we were to where we are,
beautiful and strong and doing our job, even if no one takes
our picture, even if no one remembers our names.