To the Young Man on the Bridge

By Jessica Jopp Jessica Jopp

The newspaper caption read: “Two officers talk to a young man, name withheld, as he stands on a bridge above the Merrimack River, distraught over learning that his mother is terminally ill.”

When I first saw you
I could glance up from your image in the paper
and out her kitchen doorway watch
my mother trim her artemisia,
scraps of silver trailing
her green wheelbarrow.
And I imagined yes,
if mine were dying,
I would be on the abutment too,
about to release the cable
ignoring those attempting rescue;
imagined your rock-weight drop
pierce Merrimack gray
driving you through layers of silt and barge wake
till your heart burst
its knot of color
oiled into molecular black.

And now that, years later, I have lost mine,
also to disease, I see your face again
transfixed in white and black,
a pale sphere caught
in the newspaper’s grainy net.
But now I would coax you back
from the railing to tell you:
no matter the number of months that have passed,
what whole rounded year has slipped
a marble from my pocket,
there is a moment of breaking
the surface of whatever hour
and plunging past the floating glass
of doorknobs turned in pain
light shafts driven
further into the enamel
of an incandescent pedal Singer
rimmed in chrome and folds of cloth
whose scent can still drown me
in green oblivion. Floating too
an azure button, despair complete
in its perfect disc, terra cotta saucer
lifted by her hand
with a border of fine red leaves
each holding its breath for all of us,
holding our grief.

                      I would say to you:
that impossible weight
will drop you every day
and arrows of color pierce
your body clear through, the river
for which you might stay.

Source: Poetry (February 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2011


Jessica Jopp’s first book, The History of a Voice, received the Baxter Hathaway Prize in Poetry from Epoch. Recent work has appeared in Denver Quarterly and the Spoon River Poetry Review.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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