Living in Proximity to the Tasman Bridge
From a window.
Colourlessly, ghosts of cars, trucks, buses,
relentlessly, into and out of the sight-line, cross the bridge.
Silent puffs of cloud, discreet molecules, almost real.
They are cloud, they come from cloud, go into cloud, elevated.
Beneath them is the grey insipid sky of the river
and above and beyond the slate rivers of the sky.
I know that they are peopled.
Muted against the whirring constant of the sound of the bridge,
some semblance to the music of the spheres.
From west to east, from east to west, circuitous,
humanity in motion, enclosed in nebulous vessels,
goes from shore to eternal shore.
Some years ago a man and a woman sat looking out this same window.
It was early evening. They noticed as a transformation
a pause in the music.
They wondered if they heard instead, or just prior to,
the sound of a heavy, urgent shudder,
as though steel and concrete were in pain.
They blinked and thought they saw the bridge itself pause.
What had happened was that the circle was broken.
In the gap, a black, bleak thought pre-empted the next
startling set of images that they saw.
Cars, some cars, flowed over the edge of the gap.
Their headlights tipped and projected long streaks of white light
down to locate a place of entry into the dark depths of the water.
Picking the spot, the cars drove down to drown.
One car, travelling at high speed, hurled up the rise and set off
magnificently to traverse the gap.
But the gap was great and the car, high octane propelled, albeit,
had no answer to the grave insistence of gravity.
But two cars slowed in time and had minds of their own,
one, called a GTS Monaro, with its two front wheels, spinning,
had tested the feel of the cold, dark gap, and then resisted,
hurting its underbelly, by scraping to a heavy halt.
(That car went on a world tour. Or, at least, its photo did,
shunted down the wires, to make many a front page.)
The man and woman saw all this, that night in 1975,
looking inexplicably up in time from ‘Some Came Running’, through the glass.
Time was, as it is sometimes, slowed, but eventually they slid open the glass door
and stepped out onto their treated pine balcony, to find in the January night
that the air was still bending, that the bridge was still humming,
that the two brave cars’ headlights were still crossing the gap.
They listened. They could hear their own heartbeats.
But otherwise all was still.
They could not hear the wailing, tearing agony of the suicidal vessel,
‘Lake Illawarra’, she that had interrupted the bridge of humanity.
In the blackness that was the river, there were no ripples they could see
and no visible upsurge or ebb of displaced water, as she quickly sank,
for even a drunken, humping lady of the oceans, of ten thousand tons,
can be inconsequential in deep estuarial waters.
So they went back inside their lounge room, shyly clutching each other
and clutching to the hope that their companionable TV would comfort them,
with strokes of Sinatra, Martin, Shirley MacLaine, bulwarks in the night,
and eventually with an interrupting, hush-inducing News Flash,
to confirm that what they had seemed to see was indeed so,
namely, that the city itself had had a stroke, a debilitating stroke,
and all up one side was paralysed.