Douglas S. Jones
Stepping off Mackville Bridge
Over the rail you can see the sweet spot,
that dark curl of current, eye-shaped and swirling
at the surface, staring back. It’s where the big rainbows
linger, a spot that’s hard to hit with a lure
from shore. To either side, moss velvets the rocks
in sunlight. To hit it, don’t jump, but step and let
that slight forward momentum sail you
into the pupil. Not enough and the cement
will catch your back. Too far and you’re in the toothy shallow.
No one ever wanted to die here. This was never a suicide leap, not
any kind of sure thing. It was the practice of trajectory, full and complete.
You knew from that one step whether you got it right
or not. The whole way down, you knew it was water
or it was rock.
The step was something we never did again;
it was nothing at all like living.
We taught ourselves how to hit and how to take it,
how to steal machetes from the hardware store.
Weekends, we threw bottles at the janitor’s lame dog. We taught
ourselves how to smoke stolen grass on the church lawn while bats
flicked out from the cottonwoods.
Some of us knew we were insects
dumbed by the moon. Some of us wrapped
our hands tight around the teacher’s neck.
Our pants were greased and ripped by the shattered windows
of abandoned buildings.
We all knew how to bleed.
We set fires, spit on the flag-draped cross.
We learned to die every day,
hoping each time would be the last.