Sharon Lax | /BRIJ/ OR BRYCG—QUÉBEC, AUGUST 29, 1907

/brij/ or brycg—Québec, August 29, 1907

It’s /brij/ or, in Old English, ‘brycg’
A way, a noun and/or verb (as in movement: to bridge a gap or chasm)
As a noun, a crossing, perhaps more sound of body the greater the intention

Québec, late August 1907: the mercury at 54, more or less
Cooler over the St. Lawrence, the sun placid against its friend or foe, the sky
Sure-footed workers sensed the beginning of the buckle on the cantilever
Pulling back against the give, the gravity: what it must have been to view the lake
From fifty meters above: distance, a matter of energy; matter a distant energy

We call ‘to build a bridge’ a phrase: ‘to build bridges’
An idiom of gratitude; ‘to reach out,’ a metaphor
Of meeting and/or listening, the potential to gain, not a game

Rivet the joints, the ironmakers and bridge builders were told, and so
Performed their bold manoeuvres, their tools, practiced at alignment
Their dexterity, solid as the beams; at foot, riveting joints between the chords
Their performance cut by shadows, cloud-cast, but no practice, no alignment
Would ease the wary heart that moment when . . .

We call the bridges we create
Paths between our hearts
A meeting place that casts us, together

The creak and groan, that late August afternoon perpetually parting with the evening
Spirits encased in cries above the waters (and how many loons/ducks/geese below)
Riveting joints within chords, they found no alignment with the holes, ill-drilled
The men, no lessened by the sense of gravity, high on the offence
Against what wasn’t made of warnings, the nature of those who refused survey

If we call bridges (in pl. form, but of one, singular purpose), a density, existing
Between the flawless nature of nothing and the air, out there, the breath, in here
If it’s called ‘reconciliation,’ ‘an alliance,’ who has intentioned the design

Who has overlooked design flaws in human nature, in cantilevers or in the very thing itself Extending across one landing to another, higher still to heavens; and what of rivets or
The men who lost their lives that August 29th, on evening’s threshold
How thoroughly did they succumb to hope, against what every muscle told
Each story, each life, what is made of legend lost that day, over seventy people

We say bridges are our best course of action (a verb, stitched across a noun)
An ending to differences and distances
A metaphor of remembering or as a description (adj.) of being human

What to say to or of all the lives lost, what to beams of steal
To conquer distance, brevity and riveting, if not from a distance, orders given
And of the simple, to attempt the lyrical, hands over ears to warnings, nose to sky
To look upon the sun, holding its place in glory above this feckless thing
Capital or honour or steel or the rushing over stones below (the distance may not be known)

We call a bridge “the building of connection” or, simply, “connection” (noun)
Between two bodies, two minds, a friendship (noun)
A handshake, tea or coffee taken together

We should leave the calculations to those who wish to measure stubborn impulse
Who instruct and gather ideas, to those whose dreams originate with no thought
About whom their wishes employ, to realize, to sacrifice the modesty of reality
To rivet dreams, defy gravity, to wonder, in all seriousness, what this all says about us
To gift the ones we name visionary: in this, to lack the desire to notice other dreams

Pronounced /brij/: a place, a time (the form immaterial)
If material: some thing, concrete, or made of steel or riveted in place . . . a discovery
Composed of two or more breaths or dreams or beings (as in, “being together,” embracing)

Author’s Bio

Sharon Lax lives in Deux-Montagnes, Québec, on the home of those whose land this is: land that is stolen. Her interest in the Québec 1907 bridge that collapsed goes back a few years when she learned about the bridge builders of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka Nation: sadly, not in, but outside of school. If there’s one way to describe her relationship with writing, it’s the wonder she experiences when traveling the world through the almost carbon-free transit of words. She finds poetry to be a resolute guide but describing the elements complicated. Sharon’s short story collection Shattered Fossils was published by Guernica Editions in 2020. Her work has appeared in carte blanche, in Montréal Serai, and in The Dalhousie Review. Stop by for a visit at