mihai andritoiu licensed
Once, in Pittsburgh
by Mary C. McCarthy

my home town, city of three rivers
and many bridges, steel city,
moving from its dark
industrial past
toward the shining dream
of a tech renaissance,
moving sometimes so fast
a project was half done
before they knew
how to end it…
Like our “Bridge to Nowhere”
arching up and over the river
but with nowhere to land —
hanging there for years
ending in a 90-foot drop
to the water,
access blocked to stop
people driving right off,
though one guy did it —
crashed through the barricade
and sailed off the end in his car,
surviving, as part of the story
we liked to tell ourselves
about our crazy, daring,
restless luck.

There one night, at loose ends
between midnight and morning,
the three of us, each one the first
from our family to go to college,
looking for something
to fill the space
between when the bars closed
and our sober-up breakfast
at Ritter’s diner,
decided to climb up on that bridge
and stand suspended
over the drop
without destination
or direction
with nothing to count on or expect,
no sure conclusion
but the deep pull of vertigo
in the wind’s buffet
and the sough of steel
intent on its own trajectory-

A lesson sudden and strong enough
to scare us back
from the tipsy lip of temptation
to roads more safe and boring
that crossed rivers in the ordinary ways
and ended up in places
almost as familiar
as those we always knew.

PHOTO: The Fort Duquesne Bridge (formerly “Bridge to Nowhere”), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Mihai Andritoiu, used by permission.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Bridge to Nowhere was a temporary landmark but hard to forget. Our late-night encounter seemed just right in terms of our own uncertainties at the time, taking off in directions no one was used to even in imagination — something new in our family histories, well outside the comfort zone.

PHOTO: Fort Duquesene Bridge — The Bridge to Nowhere — in 1966.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Fort Duquesne Bridge spans the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was called “The Bridge to Nowhere” because the main span was finished in 1963, but due to delays in acquiring right of ways for approach ramps, it did not connect on the north side of the Allegheny River. The lack of approach ramps meant the bridge ended in midair, rendering it useless. On December 12, 1964, Frederick Williams, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Pittsburgh, drove his 1959 Chrysler station wagon through the bridge’s wooden barricades, raced off the end of the bridge, and landed upside-down but unhurt on the other side.The northwestern ramps were completed in 1969, allowing access to Pennsylvania Route 65. (Source: Wikipedia)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary C. McCarthy has studied art and literature, and has always been a writer, though most of her working life was spent as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many print and electronic journals and anthologies, and she has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis magazine.