Why Things Stay Up

Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Scheherazade was half an engineer —

the whole point of those stories is not to end.

Engineers like up, smooth, solid, stay.

Barefoot in breechclouts, they sling thin lines across

ignorance, tie on heavier cables hauled

across the gap by other anonymous arms.

On civilization’s table Engineering

isn’t the ice sculpture shining where it rises

between the bowls of roses — it’s the table.

Stories want friction, want splinter, want fast, want crash.

Stories need sand in the engine, a crack in the brace.

The point of a movie rope bridge is to fall.

Engineers change genius into thing

in incremental, undramatic steps.

Not many stories about engineers

whose questions changed our hands, which changed our brains,

deeper-pleated them, rewiring their circuits.

Engineers may be humanity’s thumbs.

Or maybe they’re the bridge itself, always linking

the current world to the new possible.

Defying gravity like tightrope walkers

they deflect pressure down the sides of arches,

out around barrel vaults, groin vaults, outward through

buttresses that fly like petrified lace.

They toss steel into the sky where against the sun

on a cable strung between two towers

you can just make out a dancing man.

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