Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Notes on a Rescue; Tight White Fists
Notes on a Rescue


He is done this morning. He feels

nothing, and each day is longer 

than the one before, emptier,

and filled with so much silence.


He leaves the house with nothing, 

no keys or wallet. He does wear a belt. 

His jeans are too big. He hasn’t been eating. 


He’s been planning for over a year, 

mapping the route in a small lined 

notebook until it was memorized. 

He knows not to use his own 

nothing neighborhood. It is too busy.


Each step brings relief in halted breaths, 

the certainty of finally doing something.


He swings easily over the dew-slick

railing and waits for nothingness.


Each person on the bridge turns as 

to an alarm, some secret scream 

they hear together as they move 

towards him, an army of rescue. 


He means to fly, but hands grip him 

from behind, spin him, and pin his arms. 


Each stranger wraps him, one pulling 

his belt through the bridge slats as

others hug his neck, another, his knees. 


He feels each of his hands held 

tightly by hands he does not know. 


It is nothing like and almost exactly 

like love, he thinks, if only he 

could remember that feeling. 

Tight White Fists


Watching red stalks 

rise, the following 

flood of green, 

months passed, waiting, 

contemplating cages, 

an onslaught of ants, 

and how to combat 

all that growing weight.


Stones laid in a circle, 

ill-fitting fragments now 

build the bed that will 

corral the coming beauty 

I was promised in fall 

when I razed the remnants 

of someone else’s color. 


This morning, tight white 

fists welcomed me. Bowing 

to the earth, penitent, they looked 

so much like you that I forgot 

my watering and knelt beside them. 

Eyes closed, I listened for

the moment they broke open.

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Shannon Carriger is the winner of the 2015 Inscape Magazine Editor's Choice Award in Poetry. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including The Midwest Quarterly, Manhattan Book Review, Inscape Magazine, Kansas English, and Prometheus Dreaming. She is a teacher, writer, and book reviewer living in Kansas with her poet-professor husband and their dog, Zelda, who is the sweetest of beasts.

“Notes on a Rescue,” 

One morning, scrolling through some social media feed or other, I came across a 2017 photograph of a bridge in North London. A crowd stood on the bridge, centered around a man on the opposite side of the railing, a man who had been prepared to attempt suicide, but the bridge-goers reached through the slat and held him, some even using ropes to secure him, in a communal attempt to save his life.

While I have been to therapy and struggled in the past, particularly when I went through a divorce nearly a decade ago, suicide was never something I considered. People I love, though, people who make my every day brighter and more filled with light, have. I know the darkness they’ve felt, I know the pain that led them to those moments, and the photo of this rescue gave me a way in to writing about it.

I’m a fan of Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, so there is a bit of a referent to him if only in the title, and poems of place have always intrigued me. Writing this one, I wanted the bridge to do , Ideally, the central character approaches the physical bridge believing he has nothing and then, miraculously, strangers save him, building a figurative bridge back to life for him.

“Tight White Fists,” 

In the throes of my first marriage ending nearly a decade ago, I saw the beginning buds of daisies I had transplanted from a friend’s garden, and “Tight White Fists” was born. I tried to write the poem, to turn it towards the sun and let it open, several times. But, like overwatered flowers and that marriage, it wouldn’t bloom.

Then, in 2016, I remarried and bought a nearly ninety-year-old home that needed quite a bit of landscaping work. My husband and I discovered invasive species in the back yard and aggressive ivy trying to choke a massive oak tree. We also found the prior owners had left behind peonies, in addition to a giant mud pit where an above ground pool had been.

This year, on a perfect late May morning, the fists of those unopened peonies in the yard of the house I owned with the love of my life made the poem take shape. The poem is about my own gardening, but it is also about the complete gratitude I feel every minute of every day to have found my best friend and soul mate.