Thursday, June 15, 2017

David Allen writes


She was beautiful and smart 
and possibly the best 
reporter in our bureau, 
a free-spirited Californian 
working her way up 
the newspaper chains.

We toiled for a Virginia 
mid-sized daily. She 
had come from a smaller 
paper in Delaware, 
where her biggest story 
was a feature on the jumpers 
who chose the Chesapeake 
Bay Bridge for their final exit.

I loved her, we all did, 
but she arrived too late for me. 
I was engaged to the woman 
who would bear my children. 
Fran attended the wedding reception 
and, in a scene replayed 
in my mind a thousand times since, 
she took me aside and asked,
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
I already had, I answered.

We became good friends, 
part of a small clique 
that hung around my backyard barbecue 
and, with burgers and beers in hand 
we talked about where we’d go and 
which papers would be next.

She became close to another reporter 
to whom she shared her secret doubts 
and fears, like how she once parked 
on the railroad tracks and waited 
trembling for the train that never came.

A year passed. 
And then one day 
she was gone. 
We later learned 
she had driven back 
to Delaware and parked 
her car in the middle of her bridge 
and made her jump.

I never got to say, 
“Are you sure you want 
to do this?”

Instead, I ran to the men’s 
room at work and howled 
and mourned like I had never before 
or since.

She haunts me sometimes 
in dreams – though not as 
often these days – her clothes soaked, 
smiling through broken teeth, 
gesturing to a bridge.

“Care to take the leap?” she asks 
“The fall was exhilarating and 
though death’s baptism hurt 
it did not last. And I am 
no longer insecure.”

“But you are also 
no longer,” I answer. 
And I turn away 
and awake and 
return to where I am 
in the middle of my 
own leap into life.

I am sure I want to do this. 
Image result for Woman Committing Suicide By Jumping Off Of A Bridge painting


  1. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Gov. William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge, commonly known as the "Bay Bridge") opened in 1952 and, at 4.3 miles (6.9 km), was the world's longest continuous over-water steel structure and third-longest bridge; a parallel span was added in 1973. Before the bridge was constructed, ferries were the main mode of transportation; the first service ran from Annapolis to Broad Creek on Kent island, roughly where the bridge is today. Kent is the largest island in the Chesapeake bay, and the bay's main waterway is at its narrowest at this point. Kent Fort was founded by William Charles Cole Claiborne, a merchant from Jamestown, in 1631, making it the oldest English settlement in Maryland, and only the third oldest permanent English settlement (after Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620). Because of its height (185 ft above the water), the narrowness of the spans (there are no hard shoulders), the low guardrails, and the frequency of high winds, it is one of the scariest bridges in the world, and also the site of many suicides. The bridge opened in July 1952 and in September a Baltimore engineer became the first person to leap to his death; since then at least 75 people have jumped off, according to the "Baltimore Sun," but the Maryland Transportation Authority does not keep an official tally, and the state has an agreement with local media not to cover it in their news broadcasts.

  2. The Bridge of Sighs

    One more Unfortunate,
    Weary of breath,
    Rashly importunate,
    Gone to her death!

    Take her up tenderly,
    Lift her with care;
    Fashion'd so slenderly
    Young, and so fair!

    Look at her garments
    Clinging like cerements;
    Whilst the wave constantly
    Drips from her clothing;
    Take her up instantly,
    Loving, not loathing.

    Touch her not scornfully;
    Think of her mournfully,
    Gently and humanly;
    Not of the stains of her,
    All that remains of her
    Now is pure womanly.

    Make no deep scrutiny
    Into her mutiny
    Rash and undutiful:
    Past all dishonour,
    Death has left on her
    Only the beautiful.

    Still, for all slips of hers,
    One of Eve's family—
    Wipe those poor lips of hers
    Oozing so clammily.

    Loop up her tresses
    Escaped from the comb,
    Her fair auburn tresses;
    Whilst wonderment guesses
    Where was her home?

    Who was her father?
    Who was her mother?
    Had she a sister?
    Had she a brother?
    Or was there a dearer one
    Still, and a nearer one
    Yet, than all other?

    Alas! for the rarity
    Of Christian charity
    Under the sun!
    O, it was pitiful!
    Near a whole city full,
    Home she had none.

    Sisterly, brotherly,
    Fatherly, motherly
    Feelings had changed:
    Love, by harsh evidence,
    Thrown from its eminence;
    Even God's providence
    Seeming estranged.

    Where the lamps quiver
    So far in the river,
    With many a light
    From window and casement,
    From garret to basement,
    She stood, with amazement,
    Houseless by night.

    The bleak wind of March
    Made her tremble and shiver;
    But not the dark arch, 65
    Or the black flowing river:
    Mad from life's history,
    Glad to death's mystery,
    Swift to be hurl'd—
    Anywhere, anywhere 70
    Out of the world!

    In she plunged boldly—
    No matter how coldly
    The rough river ran—
    Over the brink of it, 75
    Picture it—think of it,
    Dissolute Man!
    Lave in it, drink of it,
    Then, if you can!

    Take her up tenderly, 80
    Lift her with care;
    Fashion'd so slenderly,
    Young, and so fair!

    Ere her limbs frigidly
    Stiffen too rigidly,
    Decently, kindly,
    Smooth and compose them;
    And her eyes, close them,
    Staring so blindly!

    Dreadfully staring
    Thro' muddy impurity,
    As when with the daring
    Last look of despairing
    Fix'd on futurity.

    Perishing gloomily,
    Spurr'd by contumely,
    Cold inhumanity,
    Burning insanity,
    Into her rest.—
    Cross her hands humbly
    As if praying dumbly,
    Over her breast!

    Owning her weakness,
    Her evil behaviour,
    And leaving, with meekness,
    Her sins to her Saviour!

    --Thomas Hood


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