May Day, 1947 (for Claudia)
Rachel McKibbens

after the photograph of Evelyn McHale *

That morning, a woman rolled out of bed and whispered, Today,
I am no one’s mother.
And so she became no one's mother, just a

flagpole of skin standing in the yard, a checkered apron at half-mast.
Three states over, a young girl was lying on the couch in the basement,

lips hard-kissed by her ambitious boyfriend. His eyes closed, the boy
did not notice the girl become a large pail of cold water filled to the rim,

hair turned to slow green strands of algae. Fourteen hundred feet in
the sky, a dazed heart sang out: Without you, there is nothing left,

then jumped. Somewhere between the sixtieth and fifty-ninth floor,
it became a brunette in white gloves, long stocking’d legs with their

heels kicked off, a mouth drawn over in deep red wax, a diamond ring
on a shattered hand.


* On May Day, just after leaving her fiancÚ, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note.
“He is much better off without me . . . I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody,” . . .
Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State
Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped.
In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations
limousine parked at the curb . . .



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