The Construction of the Forth Railway Bridge 1882-1890

The Construction of the Forth Railway Bridge 1882-1890
       Knitting and riveting
         pinning and weaving,
       knitting and riveting
         pinning and weaving,
         building the girders out
            over the water;

       gangers in rivet-teams
         sweating at furnaces,
       wielding the rivet-tongs,
         hammering plates in place,
         hanging the arms
            of the great cantilever;

       decking the space with them
         over the water,
       complex equations
         for cross-beams in tension,
         joints in suspension,
            engaged with all weathers –

       wind blow the bridge-bays
         the bridge-bays distort with it,
       sun swing from south to west
         arms bend away from it
         till they’re braced rigid
            warping the measure;

       the bite of the ice air
         through jerkins of leather,
       a shower of rain adding
         weight to the structure
         already supporting
             chain, crane and timber

       stage, winch and hawser,
         furnace and hammer,
       the winds of the firth
         exerting their pressure
         on three growing galleons
            sailing the water;

       the struts that the jacks lift,
         the ties where no pin shears,
       the skewbacks through which all loads
         pass to the bridge-piers,
         building the girders out,
            building them further,

       the light through the structure
         that turns on each girder,
       each tubular tower,
         the ring of the worker,
         macramé of metal,
            tracery of shadows.

       The man with the camera
         slides other plates in place,
       times each exposure
         then snaps shut the wooden case,
         captures the moment,
            freezes the hammer.
Colin Donati

from Rock is Water (Kettilonia, 2002)

Reproduced by permission of the author.
Colin Donati

Colin Donati is a poet, translator and musician who writes in both Scots and English.

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