Westgate sister


We are both middle-aged.
My span is widening,
as are your lanes.
I'm having my greys done;
you are being checked
for metal fatigue.
I wear jeans and t-shirts —

fashionable but modest.
You wear lurid,
yellow windsocks
to complement your grey,
all-weather foundations,
and you cover your street lights
with flowerpot hats
in a manner I can only call brave.

When it rains,
you cloak your figure
with a fine organza veil —
a negligee to tempt the silver sky.
In the post-rain sun,
the glass of car windows sparkle
in the headwrap of your tiara.
Your twin peaks lift and separate.
I watch you,
as if you were applying lipstick in the mirror, and
I see me
Only bigger, bolder, and beautiful.

Still, when young,
we were works-in-progress.
When your construction was in its tenth year,
I was seven.
I sat under you. I had no front teeth.
My fringe was tight across my forehead,
kept put with a single bobby.
My clothes were your hand-me-downs:
belt buckles, pressed nickel buttons,
metal zips that no longer slid
up along their track.

I was born whole, if immature.
Some days it pleased me that your progress lagged.
You had arrived adult-sized but in pieces.
You were unable to clap,
like a baby in a brace.
My teasing never slowed you.
Unworried by my completeness,
you leaned across, reached, stretching,
desperate to catch up.

It took a toll, your wiry fingers and bitten nails.
The lives spent for you.
The money.
And yet when your two steady hands finally met,
you looked, not as if you had grown up overnight,
but as if you'd always been that way:
mature, well-rounded, over-developed.

Your bend,
the curve of the famed siren with one rib removed,
makes you different from all the others of your kind.
Your graceful swirls are held by girders en pointe.
So fine is your connection to the earth
my arms would fit around your toes or
the top of your thighs if I were ever to hug you.
Tug boats, rubber bellied midwives,
know your territorial waters.
Ships sail between your knees —
and you let them.

I look on knowingly at your disasters.
I listen to your full orchestral detail
Of the short-fallings of the men who made you.
Inwardly, I'm thankful for my life of
selecting fabric softener,
ironing flat the heels of my shoes.

But there are times,
growing more frequent
as I pass through half-life,
when I want to fly up where you are,
above the flat industrial rooves,
and the mossy pitched tiles of home,
over the swimming pool tubs of oil
lining the river mouth;
drift as far as the geometric pattern cuttings of the docks
where the Yarra Yarra and the Maribyrnong
meet sleeve-to-bodice, tacked with cable fibres,
snipped in notches at the underarm.

I want, as you dreamed in our childhood,
to be blown about by high cross-winds,
to be wooed by the Spirit of Tasmania
and the occasional QE2,
to loosen my lips and kiss
the perimeter lip of the bay
without straining.

Margaret McCarthyMargaret McCarthy is a writer, editor and teacher based in Seddon, Victoria.

Topic tags: Margaret McCarthy, Westgate Sister, Westgate Bridge, new australian poetry



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Existing comments

What an incredible and gentle piece - gorgeous.

Margaret Herczeg | 24 February 2009  

A beautiful poetic appraisal.I am constantly in awe of it`s beauty and presence from various vantage points,Viva Melbourne.

Justin Halpin | 24 February 2009  

What a rich and warm response to the great structure. Its invention keeps delighting because it all flows so easily from feeling the bridge a loved companion of the imagination - an unstrained release of delight at wonders we take for granted only at the cost of impoverishing our lives. And what a lovely sense, too, of someone so comfortable with herself as she looks back and then forward to life unfolding further. Thanks Margaret.

Joe Castley | 24 February 2009  

I loved this poem, the wonderfully discriptive interaction of the writer's life with our Bridge is bright with promise of all that is still attainable in life.

Well done, I felt the 'high cross-winds' on my face and saw with new eyes 'your graceful swirls'
Thank you Maragaret Mc Carthy

Mary Cameron | 24 February 2009  

fabulous poem, let's have more from this fabulous poet!

michelle | 24 February 2009  

the analogy between animate and inanimate is well sustained and thought-provoking - & the transfer in the desire of 'if only'... resonates - a well-realised poem - congrats.

ann nugent | 24 February 2009  

Thank you all for your warm and intelligent responses. Most encouraging.

Margaret McCarthy | 25 February 2009  

I was unable to be at Yarraville festival. What a shame. A beautiful piece, Margaret. Conveyed beautifully.

Sharon Currie | 25 February 2009  

An interesting poem - amusing, witty, passionate. I would like to read more from this poet and other poems like it.

Carolyn Masel | 03 April 2009  

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