Poetry Map of Scotland: Poem no. 306

The Suspension Bridge
(aka The South Portland St Pedestrian Bridge, 1853)

Swaying unsteadily along from Clyde St to the Gorbals
out across the murky river:
you really can't get much more Glasgow - it belongs.

The Corporation's stuck red lights on it, some working:
so it's New Glasgow now,
which is to say a little tacky, cheerful and just about surviving.

Those cables zooming: zip-line, circus-act, jive-dance-swing,
a leap of faith, that unexpected grace.
Like Glasgow, it all looks a bit precarious but never just pedestrian.

That parabolic swoop of wire following the graph of history
the city's soaring ups, its dizzying downs,
that hesitation at the mid-point - until it starts on up again.

Bridges always lead you on, trace skyward lines, tend to hyperbole,
especially Glasgow's: the cables' smiley grin
flogs visions of that other side where it'll all be miles better.

The future's bright, forget the past: the city's vaulting aspiration:
"all kidology: y'er jokin'!"
This hopefulness of bridges, it'll break your heart in time.

Observe, bright-eyed, the weight of padlocked pledges
securing what little that they can.
Folk leaning out to drop the keys, straining like their promises.

The city's stories dangle here, above the stream, beyond
the surge and fret of time,
with all their hoped for futures hanging in the balance.

Find thus life's quiet site of always in-between, its limen:
you're never home but here.
This is Glasgow's cross-roads, way-station, place of prayer.

So at the mid-line, where the cables dip to their nadir, pause -
held suspended, shed what you can.
Unburdened of regret, find how your pace might quicken.

The faint bounce underfoot, the spring inserted in your step:
the sense of being open to uncertainty.
The half-glimpsed optimism of a suspension bridge. 

Robin Leiper 

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