Original poem reprinted online here: "This is a City of Bridges" by Jeff Dolven
Originally read: August 1, 2014
More information about the Poet: Jeff Dolven
What I wrote in the beginning, "quatrains xaxa rhyme [scheme]" There's a focus on a gap. In the first line, there's the repetition of the title, "This is a city of bridges," but the stanza changes the context and a different focus, "thought the water is mostly fled; / a city of ambitious span and empty bed." Note that the semi-colon brings in the connection of reinterpretation of the same scene. "Water has fled" and an "empty bed" state similar visual images, but different tones. The first is more of the "escape of nature" and the second the "escape of people."
However, the speaker doesn't go into the reinterpretations and rather focuses on the visual. "It makes for a curious skyline:" Note the usage of "it" in the first line -- noting more of the situation which creates a "curious skyline." But what of the situation is described -- more so repeated? Something empty with a curvature pointing out that emptiness. "From the road you'd think / of skyscrapers at a watering hole / stooping to drink water." Again, the speaker reinterprets the scene for the "you." from the direct, to now the metaphor with, "except that there's no water" a phrase that reinforces the lack of something.
"The old canals are parched , / an no one comes to sing or suckle / under the arch" Here the difference here is that the speaker talks about the lack of people here -- the lack of people who makes use of the empty space. Ah, but the speaker uses the empty space for interpretation, to state what he's trying to express with the "you" and what about the "you"?
and no one quite remembers
what the bridges were for,
what we were getting over, and why
we're still building more.
Here the speaker brings in the you on to the speaker's side. The speaker addresses the general populace for not knowing; meanwhile, the speaker reinterprets the same scene but this time wondering more of a purpose rather than the visual, but it is the visual that keeps people going to build more.
"But build we do." Stop. Now this becomes self-referential. The speaker, the general populace builds more bridges -- more overhangs over emptiness to reinterpret. Why? "Bridges to make us free. / At the foot of each the traveler has a choice of three" here past me pointed out how sing-songy the "free" and "three" rhyme together. And here, it's not a detriment, here there's a jovial tone, something, as a community, brings all of "us" together with a dash a cynicism.
"But nowhere to rest at nightfall / when the bridges chase their tails." It's the construction that matters, who cares about sleep? "churning between dusk and dawn / like buried wheels." Yet another reinterpretation of the same scene. But this time the focus is on a circle, a cycle. What begins and ends and begins again?