Sunday, April 26, 2009

Crane, St Brieuc, April.

A mighty wonder, the demolition crane stands, vermilion, against a spring blue sky.

The man in the cab at its axis is a small figure. If the crane were a toy, you would have to get him out of there, to open the little hinged perspex door of the cab, and take him between finger and thumb, plastic and smiling, bent in the middle, his backside flattened to the seat. Then you would probably lose him in the random chaos of the toybox.

But that man up there, tiny and remote, is a figure of power and mystery, a distant godhead enthroned. His face is ineffable, veiled by the glassy darkness of the cab, only his orange hat and scarlet knee-pads are made visible. He has dominion, wields power on many planes.

He reaches out his hand, and swings the crane's great arm wide, over the rooftops, the lead and the slate, over the skylights and wrought iron balconies and belle époque dormers, over the men below labouring with hands and hammers, over the car parks and kerbsides, the weedy grass and waste ground blossoming with beer cans and sweet wrappers, over the plane trees' and sycamores' translucent fluttering, over the black redstart whistling from the chimney pot, over the estate agent, the photocopiers', the school and the clinic and the sex shop, swings it through a wide arc while all the time pulling and lifting its load, with its sharp, hard edges and its terrible gravity.

Slow and measured its shadow passes over us, like an angel of death, leaving us below, miraculously safe and whole, craning our necks, gazing upward in awe and thankfulness.

What a wonder it is, the structure, the mechanism; we may well marvel at its unerring gentleness, at our trust in it, that it holds, sustains, moves with mysterious grace, and at the mercy with which it does not come down in noisy, murderous cataclysm about our heads.

Look at it there, rising, its planes and angles and diagonals, its ascending order of vivid flaming struts and shining bolts against the impossible blue - an oratorio in tempered steel!

20 comments:

Catalyst said...

Nice writing, Luce!

Zhoen said...

The crane is the state bird of Utah.

(No, actually, it's the seagull.)

julie said...

A powerful word image. Thanks, Lucy!

christopher said...

Occasionally, I leave descriptions of what I do in the world. I have been at the base of such creatures.

Here is one view of a crane as a pile driver. I was supervising, counting and marking blows per inch and the depth of the pile as we nailed the salt marsh together to support a new building.

Counting Pile, 1981

Winter morning with
sideways rain, in full slicker
with my tools, a Write
In The Rain pad, chalk,
and mechanical pencil,
with hard hat and ear
protection, many
layers hoping to keep warm,
I stood next to steam
and noise so big it
hammered me and the pile cap
equally. I froze
in the winter rain.

Dave said...

Great post, Lucy!

The Crow said...

I can only echo what Julie and the others have said before me, Lucy. Grand essay!

Especially liked the image of the vermillon crane against the blue sky. I can easily picture it in my mind's eye.

:)

Crafty Green Poet said...

very vivid, beautifully written

Barrett Bonden said...

Gosh, Luce, you're only a step away from a pome. But I'm ambivalent about your choice of subject. Any more like this and you're going to put me out of business. In fact I must re-trench. I feel the stirrings of a rondeau redoublé.

Rosie said...

How vivid the description...it is as clear as one of your photos!

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Hi, Lucy! Wonderful grays and muted colors in your recent photos, as well as the brighter colors of boats and plants, and the gleam of a toaster.

Rouchswalwe said...

The way you begin by exploring how he must be seeing the world pulls one right in to the piece. "But," you continue, and then my thoughts are provoked. At lunch today, I'll walk past the construction site across the street and look at it in a whole new way. Thank you, Lucy!

Lucy said...

Thanks people.

The French word for crane the bird and crane the device, are also the same 'grue'. Sometimes when one is spotted anglos here remark 'what a gruesome sight!'.

I am puzzled about seagulls in Utah...

I have a penchant for items of heavy plant, and the trappings of trucks and lorries. My paternal family business was haulage and plant hire so perhaps it is in the blood... A contruction or demolition site in springtime is something quite rapturous for me. (Certainly since I got too old to be jeered and whistled at by construction workers anyway) Takes all sorts.

In fact it started off as a poem, but looking at it on the page in manuscript, I realised it read better as slightly whimsical prose. I guess it's what Dave might call a 'poem-like thing'. Interestingly, I imagine some who read and enjoyed it probably would have passed over it if it had been in poem form.

Plutarch said...

Cranes, like bridges, have a special fascination. You capture so well, "the crane's great arm swinging wide over the rooftops..." But BB should not be too territorial with regard to the technology behind your prose poem. The word "crane" in English, as it is in French and Spanish (grue and grua respectively) and, I believe, in several other languages, is derived from the name of the elegant, long-legged bird which it undoubtedly resembles, and is therefore firmly rooted in natural history, where, if neccessary, you may park your tanks.

Jan said...

I was wondering if your FRench translation would be as beautiful as this...
Superb images.

Zhoen said...

Well, there's this large, salty, body of water nearby Salt Lake City. The gulls don't seem to know the difference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_gulls

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh how wonderful. I have always loved demolition cranes - well, cranes in general despite the fact that I am terrified of heights and hate to see things destroyed. But there is something so awesome about them - they are like dinosaurs I always think. I am sure if the dinosaurs came back they would seek out cranes and try to mate with them!

apprentice said...

This is quite haiban like in its language, you could just add a haiku at the end and it would be.

I like them too, there is something of the gentle vegetation eating dinsosuar about them.

Lucy said...

Plutarch - and my appreciation of them is really aesthetic rather than technical...

Jan - thanks. I've never really done any serious French translation, except for the notes and bio of a friend who was having an art expo and wanted them in English.

Zhoen - silly me, I'd rather forgotten about that body of salt water. That's a rather wacky story isn't it? And the article said the gulls are indigenous to the Salt Lake. I don't know if gulls need salt water, I suppose they must do at some point. There are terns fishing a long way up the Loire, and they don't seem to mind that it's fresh water.

RB - now I am haunted by visions of brontosauri humping large construction plant...

Anna - I don't know much about haiban, I'm afraid. They are very gentle aren't they; I like it when you see them all folded down and travelling on the roads too.

Sheila said...

Thought-provoking writing about such a mechanical object of modern life.

I have seen a few crane operators as clients because of an EAP arrangement. They are generally very stressed by their work, realizing that one mistake could cost lives--often turning to alcohol to deal with the stress at the end of the day, and sometimes developing problems because of that.

They tend to have to travel a lot, going where the crane is needed, and so are far from family much of the time.

It's a hard life.

Nice to have a different perspective for a moment.

Lucy said...

Hi, Sheila. Though the writing was whimsical, I often do think about and appreciate the immense responsibiity that these jobs involve, and the stress that that would bring. I supoose because the crane operatives are so remote, it's harder to think about the human person there. Perhaps this adds to their problems, as they have less of the comradeship of the men working below...

Thanks for your insights.