American Muse: Jill McDonough


“Golden Gate Hank”

I wake up with a toothache, think I should write
about a toothache, make it somehow worthwhile.
It’s got everything: intimacy, decay, how the body’s
busy, night and day, doing you in. One of the hundreds
of jumpers’ corpses pulled from the bay had a note
in its pocket saying No reason at all except
I have a toothache. Josey’s grandfather
shot himself after his fifth sinus operation failed.
Josey says Empty Nose Syndrome and I get confused—
how can hollows be hollowed? But then I go to, cup my poor nose
in horror, grateful for all I take for granted, can’t see.

Golden Gate Hank hates his nickname.
If you wanted to be called Serenity Hank,
Ken tells him, you shouldn’t have jumped
off the fucking bridge. The ones that live
all say they changed their minds in the four seconds
before they hit, tried to land feet first and managed it.
Ken says don’t tell people I think every day
of how I wouldn’t kill myself, they get the wrong idea.
I think every day of how I’d save myself, save
Josey: stab the bad guy, fall feet first, punch the Great White
in his eyeball, play dead in the bullet-ridden mass grave.

From the back seat of the Suburban, I heard
my mother say to my father Driving across a high bridge
always makes me want to jump. You might live:
A seventeen year old boy hit feet first, swam to shore
and walked for help, saying his back was killing him.
Another guy realized he was alive and underwater, felt something
brushing his broken legs. Great, now I get eaten by a shark,
he thought. It happens. But this was a seal, circling,
apparently the only thing that was keeping me alive,
and you can not tell me that wasn’t God, because that’s
what I believe, and that’s what I’ll believe until the day I die.


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