“So, If Everyone Jumped Off a Bridge” by Mike White

Mike White

SO, IF EVERYONE JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE

I’d never
get over the loneliness.
I’d be surprised as all hell.
I’d say it like a sutra: everyone.
I’d rave, I’d mourn, I’d sulk, I’d run out of food
and have to go shopping.
I’d bring along a credit card and a driver’s license.
I’d roll through stop signs, nervously.
I’d maneuver my shopping cart through the cavernous aisles,
reading the advertised specials, as if
I was taking part in a zombie movie, becoming
by turns the victim, the zombie, the actor.
I’d wonder at the sheer number of mirrors in the world.
I’d go to bed early, thinking, I’m going to wake up and …
I’d be afraid to go out at night, like a refugee, like a woman.
I’d stop showering because someone
might be on the other side of the curtain with a knife
now that there was no one to protect me, now that there was no one.
I’d stop showering just because I could.
I’d start thinking that maybe this all meant I was immortal
which I had long suspected was the case
and then I’d reason that just because everyone else
had jumped off a bridge it didn’t follow that I was going to live forever.
I’d want to die much of the time.
I’d stop writing poems, nothing more
than a mild shock, like opening the fridge in the middle of the night
to find the power had gone out.
I’d read the same shit differently, and by candlelight eventually.
I’d translate the faces in the photo album into Braille.
I’d scan the dawn sky for airplanes, the hedges for lost pets.
I’d cry for joy hearing a sparrow, a cricket, whatever.
I’d know the month and the day of the week so help me God.
I’d drive to bridges and then to the bridge,
iron railings in a rolling fog.
I’d gaze down and into
the onrushing water, into my
own improbable shadow.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015

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Mike White: “I was reading Hart Crane’s The Bridge when I wrote this poem. That was the nudge I needed, a ‘jumping off’ point, if you like. And then Crane left me. I haven’t seen him since.”