by Larry Nickel

Home 9 Composers 9 Larry Nickel 9 WHEN I THINK OF BRIDGES – the cantata


Poetry in Bridges
There’s poetry in bridges,
Over, crossing over.
A bridge can do what a metaphor does,
carrying people from one shore to another.
Skyscrapers make no sense,
except as real estate,
bridges are different,
a marriage of beauty and utility.
Who gives a care about those cages
down there;
bridges speak of belonging, bringing
people together.

A bridge is a happy ending, right?
Everything hunky-dory, tickety-boo.
Traffic moving smoothly along in both directions,
speeding along at seventy clicks, oblivious to history.
A bridge is a happy ending, right? Wrong!

There was a girl who worked on the food
floor at Woodwards.
She was studying art at U.B.C.,
and Katie was her name.
I drove with Katie to North Vancouver
one weekend,
and I showed her how progress
was coming along
on the Second Narrows Bridge, inching
closer and closer.
She spoke of a painting
on a ceiling in Rome,
a sort of a pointing match
where a whole lot of energy crosses over
between the outstretched fingers
of God and Adam.
Sounds to me like sparks
from the arc welder.
And for that, you deserve a kiss.
Two sides, growing closer, closer.

I Drove a Milk Wagon
I drove a milk wagon for two years or more,
it was all I could get at the end of the war.
List’ning for music of hooves on the road;
it’s a good thing my horse
knew the places to go.
I met an old buddy from the iron work trade
in a tavern on Granville
where fresh beer is made.
He made me an offer too good to ignore,
so I put down my milk cans
and left for the shore.
So I kissed my horse good-bye,
and left for the shore.
Second Narrows was a turning point for me,
so I put down my milk cans
and left for the sea.

Roughnecks in the Trade
Roughnecks in the trade,
family men who lived in town,
floaters came from miles around,
and green-horn immigrants
Crawler hook booming down for the pick-up,
counter-weight inching slowly backwards,
shifting the distribution;
set steel in place and bingo!
Bob’s your uncle!
Connector bungs the bolt in the hole,
hot wrench gives it a twist and a turn, and
kiss me Julia!
Come on boys, work!
I don’t care where a man comes from,
floater, immigrant, local chum,
as long as he can set the steel
and catch a red-hot rivet
between his teeth.

Death Warrant
My own three children taught me how to
read an’ write,
though all you needed was an “X”
to sign your death warrant.

Young Engineer
tick tock; time and money
How does a young engineer make an impression,
when all the rules are in place and
everything is done according to Hoyle?
Think of a way to save time; 

think of a way to save money.
ching ching, tickety-tock
Then the boss will take you to dinner,
then Mr. Hoyle will take you to dinner.
money, money; time and money

Wood. Rope. Stone. Steel.
and not always in that order
Height: two hundred ten feet
and Length: four thousand
two hundred fifty feet
Width: six lanes, eighty feet
What about clearance?
One hundred forty-five feet
made with Steel, seventeen thousand tons
and Concrete, eighty thousand cubic yards
Fill with half a million cubic yards
Dead men: twenty-seven
Ain’t she somethin’?

Industry Standards
I want to tell you about “falseworks”.
Two temporary structures
that take the weight of advancing spans
during construction
and are removed when the two sections
have been joined.
Professor Hrennikoff’s definitive publication
indicated that the vertical support columns
were below industry standards.

The Day Was So Blue
Katie and me in a small café
sipping wine and making small talk
Blue, Lord, the day was so blue.
The sky was a currency
that even poor people
could count on
Praises, all the birds singing praises.
Who could imagine a tragedy
on such a beautiful day?
We were sitting in a small café
down the road from B.C. Sugar
Crosby crooning on the radio
when the first ambulance
came screaming by
Blue, Lord, the day was so blue.

When I Think of Bridges
I’m crossing over
When I think of bridges, I see the great divide
between eternal wisdom and my own foolish pride
that was mended, forgiven, through love and sacrifice
I am crossing over on the road to paradise




SATB – a cappella    CP 1762

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