by Michael White

Natasha remembers standing on the guardrail,
gazing out across the Cape Fear River
glittering far below, the drone of traffic

at her back, but everything after that
is lost in blackout. She doesn’t remember
whether she jumped or fell, & nothing of

the impact, or the inky cold at the bottom
of the river, or the undertow
that kicked her back up to the surface. Later—

three days after regaining consciousness
in ICU—a nurse informed her how
a tugboat crewman had spotted something strange:

a dead girl floating facedown in the current.
How he caught her with a long hook as
she drifted past, & gently hauled her in.

I’m listening, but at the same time I
remember waking on a cell room floor
in 1983—with cold sweats, wave

on wave of tremors sweeping through me. She,
on the other hand, is lithe & breathtaking &
doesn’t look like she’s seen hell. And yet

tonight, in this packed speaker’s meeting in
the back of a Unitarian church, Natasha
shares her history, including her lover’s

suicide—by leaping from atop
the city parking deck five days before
her own failed effort—each fall leading to

the next, like the episodic & uncanny
fairy tales I used to read to my daughter
in the aftermath of my divorce . . . Sophia

would plop her sweet, pajama’d weight in my lap,
& I’d begin—Beautiful soup, so rich
and green, Waiting in a hot tureen

& she would hold herself upright, & trace
each line with her fingertip. That’s how I listen
to Natasha now—the way my daughter

listened to me then, once she had settled
back into the current of my voice,
as if remembering that love & love

alone can carry us across the deep.

MICHAEL WHITE teaches at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he chairs the Creative Writing Department. His poetry collections are The Island, Palma Cathedral(winner of the Colorado Prize), Re-entry (winner of the Vassar Miller Prize), and Vermeer in Hell (winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editors Prize). His memoir, Travels in Vermeer, was recently published by Persea Books. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. He has received one fellowship from the NEA and two from the North Carolina Arts Council.