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A seagull takes flight from its perch on the water. It flies past the "chained" shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and on into the distance past the Statue of Liberty. It flies out of sight like a boat sailing out of a harbor, or like a page of sales figures that an office clerk files away.
The sea gull's disappearing flight reminds the speaker of the ghostlike flickers of movies. Movies are like a prophecy or the promise of some truth that is never told. He's not too keen on them.
The speaker admires the bridge from across the harbor: the way the sun hits it, the way the bridge embodies potential energy, the way it hangs free in the air.
A insane person runs to the top of the bridge, stands for a moment, then jumps off, committing suicide. The person is anonymous and seen only from a distance.
On Wall Street, bright light passes down through the girders of high buildings on to the street below. Clouds are flying by and tall structures called derricks seem to be turning. The wind from the North Atlantic passes through the cables of the bridge.
The bridge offers the promise of a reward as mysterious as the heaven described in Jewish scriptures. It also seems to praise the anonymity of people. It makes them feel small and anonymous, even more than the passage of time. Like a king, it pardons people.
The bridge is described as a fusion of religious and artistic symbols. It's a refuge for extraordinary and marginal figures like prophets, pariahs, and lovers.
As night falls, the speaker watches the traffic lights go over the bridge. The lights remind him of eternity, and the bridge seems to hold the sky up on its towers.
The speaker stands by the piers in Manhattan, looking at the shadow of the bridge in the light of the city. The lights in the windows of office buildings and apartments have already gone out. It's winter and another year is passing.
But, like the river beneath it, the bridge never sleeps. Not only does it connect one side of the river with another, it seems to connect one side of America with another. It connects Americans.
In the final two lines, the speaker asks the bridge to descend to the level of mere mortals and to help fill the space that God has left empty.