The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an engineering school staple, illustrating how sometimes things that work on paper behave differently in reality. There are a few reference videos linked at the end of this post, but the short version is that the wind set up an oscillation in the suspension bridge that caused it to rise and fall, bend and twist, until it destroyed itself. 

Sometimes I wonder if the same thing is happening to me, my mind and heart achieving some resonance, oscillating between hope and despair, in a way that feels unstable. So here’s an attempt to find a song in all that. 

Tacoma Narrows

Words and music by Todd Porter
(c) 2022 Todd Porter. All rights reserved.

All it takes is air
     To set it in motion
35 miles an hour 
     a really strong breeze
Blowing through all the cables 
     and over the decking
The graceful suspension bridge
      starting to sing. 

The guys with the slide-rules watch the
    waves in the pavement
They crunch all the numbers
     and run all the tests
The fixes they think of
     need time for the making
More time than passes
     before the end

It waves and waves and waves
It falls and falls and falls
It sings and sings and sings
And it’s voice is louder
     than the pavement can stand

A lone car remains 
     Half-way to the shoreline.
It’s driver is stumbling 
     Each wave of the deck.
Tubby the dog bites his
     would-be rescuers
And rides in the car
      right over the edge

It waves and it waves and it waves
It falls and it falls and it falls
It sings and it sings and it sings
And it’s voice is louder
      than the pavement can stand. 

Less than two hundred feet
       under the surface
The rebar and concrete 
     are home to a reef
Unstoppable life
     growing out of destruction
If only that life
     found expression in me

It doesn’t take much
    to make us unstable,
The good and the bad 
     and our resonant hearts.

The rising and falling and
     twisting and breaking 
Destroy us and heal us
     and change who we are. 

So let’s be
Let’s be
So we’ll be
On the other side 
     of all we can’t comprehend.

I hear the song of life
Calling me day and night
Inviting my voice to join
In all that is being restored