I discovered (via wood s lot, as I discover so many things) that the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge in Minneapolis has a poem by John Ashbery inscribed across the upper lintel. Here‘s Edward Byrne’s post about it at One Poet’s Notes; he links to a very nice slide show of photos of the successive bits of the (untitled) poem on the bridge and quotes the whole thing:
And now I cannot remember how I would
have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
The place, of movement and an order.
The place of old order.
But the tail end of the movement is new.
Driving us to say what we are thinking.
It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
and think of going no further.
And it is good when you get to no further.
It is like a reason that picks you up and
places you where you always wanted to be.
This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
Then there is no promise in the other.
Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
and lucky for us.
And then it got very cool.
It’s not a great poem, but it must be a wonderful thing to experience as you walk across the bridge—something that at one point, according to a comment at Byrne’s post, Siah Armajani, the designer of the bridge, didn’t want people to be able to do: “I remember reading once that Siah had originally conceived of the bridge as only the span portion, with no stairs or ramp to ascend and cross it. He was interested, as the article I read quoted him, in ‘the concept of a bridge,’ rather than an actual functional bridge. According to the account, the local neighborhood association pressed the city to require that the bridge be crossable, not merely ornamental.” I hope it’s not true; I hate that kind of pseudo-artistic arrogance, the “Tilted Arc” controversy being the locus classicus of this sort of thing: “Art is not democratic. It is not for the people,” eh? It better be when you’re blocking people’s way to work with it, bucko.