On Tuesday night, a man and woman
were seen holding hands on the Bay Bridge.
They found her body the next day.
On Thursday evening, the same man
climbed the steel trusses at the highest point
of the bridge and hung on with one arm.
He swung to the cement barrier, and leaned
toward the water when anyone came near.
When we left for the beach on Friday,
he was still there, swaying with exhaustion.
It took twenty hours of persuasion
to coax him down.
In a forgotten corner of Shenandoah County,
Ethel and Marvin occasionally visit
their joint headstone, which is tucked away
in a small graveyard that borders
the shooting range.
Of course we’d like to go together,
but if we can’t, at least I know we’ll rest together,
Ethel is fond of saying.
One morning, Ethel awoke from a dream
in which she saw the death date chiseled on
Marvin’s side of the stone.
She gasped, rubbed her eyes and
held a hand near Marvin’s mouth until
she felt a reassuring gust of air.
Every summer, my husband times
how long it takes to
power wash three cement steps.
When he moves quickly—four minutes.
At a leisurely pace, it’s longer than seven.
In 2014, my youngest son drowned
but did not die in the moments it took
to wash three steps.
I’m the one who compressed his chest
and coaxed a thrum of pulse.
I do not know how long it took.
But now I wait.
Rachel Mallalieu is an emergency physician and mother of five. Her recent work is featured in Anti-Heroin Chic, 8Poems, Entropy, Haunted Waters Press, Nelle, Tribes, and Rattle.