NaPoWriMo, Day 20: Notes During Transit

I didn’t play it as straight as I have been with most of these prompts. I had an experience today that I really wanted to write about. In a way, I was traveling, and so was the other person involved …


Travel through the glass doors
out to the walk that overlooks
the river, in which there are

police boats beginning to
circle, near the water taxi,
which has gamely put down

its ladder and a life ring,
as if whoever is in the river
could grab hold, scramble

aboard, find safety through
the mist and cold, the heavy,
heavy water that called to him

from the bottom, as it has
called me, too, if I’m honest;
I have calculated such things

as how much it would hurt and
for how long, and how long it
would be before anyone knew.

And what happens then? Now,
there is a diver with something
in his arms, something draped

across the front of his wetsuit.
Something becomes the jumper,
dragged onto the deck of the

police boat, where an officer
leans over him, up and down
on his chest, the unmistakable

rhythm of CPR. Ten minutes, or
fifteen, since I first came out here,
stopped on my way between one

thing and another, lower level
to twentieth floor, cut through
the lobby. But I took a detour

today, to go out to the river,
wrap my sweater around me,
wonder how cold the water is,

how this will end, what it means
that I came out here instead of
continuing on and up. The man,

in black clothes, is wrapped in
a white blanket, hauled onto a
yellow stretcher for a journey

I’m guessing he didn’t want.
He’s taking a detour between
his plan and its end; whatever

else happens, he won’t die
this morning at the bottom of
the river while all of us watch.


6 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo, Day 20: Notes During Transit

  1. Wow, this is powerful. The way you develop the scene, and then introduce the jumper, and so rapidly communicate a sense of identification with him, is extraordinary. I’m impressed that you were able to write so immediately about this experience. Your presence as a witness, and the significance of that, is rendered with a just-right touch that makes the poem even more moving.

    And, above all, I’m thankful that you have managed to keep yourself dry. Please write to me any time you hear that river talking to you too loudly.

    • You’re sweet, but please don’t worry! I have looked over the railing and gotten a shivery feeling, but that’s all. I would never, ever do anything like that … but I do understand the despair that would lead someone to. I was ambivalent about my place as a witness — like, what is that human tendency to want to watch such a thing? But once I was there, I couldn’t leave until I saw him pulled out. I keep checking for updates, but there’s nothing new since this afternoon, at which point he was in serious-to-critical condition.

  2. I read this morning that he was declared dead yesterday around 1:30 p.m. — so, a couple of hours after I saw him rescued. He was in his 20s, but no name or other details have been disclosed yet. I wonder what drove him to this, and who loved him and will miss him? There was a busload of high school students on a field trip who saw him jump, and now they will have witnessed a successful suicide attempt. Sadder for him, of course, but awful for them, too.

  3. I’ve tried several different ways to say this poem and the real life situation are both very moving, but not the same kind of moving. Of course that doesn’t make sense, but no combination of words thus far has.

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