The arch, the webbing, the pylons

The rattle of trains across the void

The dark grey paint


Of pure white lead, linseed oil

And vegetable black, protected the steel

But poisoned the painters.


The painters, the dogmen, the riggers, the ironworkers,

The holder-ups, boys whose job was to catch

In a tin white hot rivets thrown by the cookers


Close by a bucket of water

To plunge in a foot when the molten slug shed its

Scales into an open boot. Nipper Anderson and Stan London


At the end of the arch, bolting plates together

With a spanner and six-foot pipe for leverage.

Nipper a champion diver, couldn't hold straight when he fell.


His final dive flawed when he hit the water on his back

And broke his neck. Or "Ned" Kelly and "Mo" Moore,

the hero with a Certificate for rescuing a bloke


Who fell from a ferry to the Quay.

They said if ever they took the big dive

They'd straighten and pierce the water like a needle


When it happened, Kelly won the prize.

They held Mo back as he strained to see.

"Ned" re-surface


To collect a gold watch and a life-long stutter,

To die in his eighties in 1979. The void, the dizzying height,

Creeper cranes inching out on the unfinished arches


Sickened men with fear as its vibrations

Rumbled through the steel and they knew

Their lives depended on cables stitched into rock


Until at ten o'clock one night

The steel's heat drawn at last by the dark poultice of night

The arches locked on the bearing pin


Boats hooted from below and on the foreshores

Residents ran into the streets banging saucepans and spoons

Such was the relief of all


The void, the dizzying height, the two sides joined at last,

The span, bridging shores in one dolphinleap of steel.

Nineteen belching locomotives rolled to the middle


To prove the structure could take the weight. Icons

Of modernist certainty riding the taut bow-string of the bridge.

The spandrels, the flanges, the web, the abutment,


Instructions now from a BridgeClimb guide as we don

Grey overalls and safety cable for ascent to the arch's crown

My near paralysed shuffle over the first catwalk


The suicidal view of the park below

Steel anchored in space

The dogmen, the riggers, the holder-ups, the rivet boys


Creeper cranes inching out on unfinished arches

The rattle of trains across the void,

The dizzying height, the Harbour Bridge