Bridges

it’s 9 degrees in Philadelphia
normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees
hypothermia sets in
when the body reaches 95 degrees
91 degrees brings amnesia
but not the kind of forgetfulness
perhaps wished
when asked
how one arrived
at this place
in life
82 degrees brings unconsciousness
though appearing to be sleeping
and a body temperature of 70 degrees
brings death

steel subway grates piss history’s whispers
of steam into the night
the city started using tall steam pipes instead
because people were sleeping on the grates

if you build it carefully
a disassembled cardboard box
wrapped in plastic
or a nylon tarp
can keep the wind and rain at bay
of course, you can’t see who’s coming
once inside — and there’s always someone coming
and you have to rebuild it each night
because someone else
will steal the best parts
the tarp or the plastic
within minutes, if you leave
or the police will cut it to ribbons with box cutters
so you have to take it apart and take it with you
in the suburbs, people live in nylon tents
in the wooded seclusion of public parks
in Camden, across the river
near the Ben Franklin Bridge
and its new red-brick river view condos
mostly vacant
they bulldozed the tent city
dropped the smeary tents and scraps of miscellany
into green dumpsters, dented from the inside
and then put up white signs with black letters
that read, “State Property – No Trespassing”

the average weight of a man is 196 pounds
the Golden Gate Bridge is 220 feet above the water
the Walt Whitman Bridge is 153 feet above the water
and the Ben Franklin Bridge is only 130
it’ll take 3.14 seconds to hit the shimmer
from the Whitman
with a speed of 63 mph at impact
if you go down spread eagle
arms outstretched
like a man embracing divinity’s grace
for the first time
or maybe just meeting the winged angel
above the chromed grill of a Rolls Royce
they say it’s like being hit by a car
you’ll break all your ribs in the fall
and if your course is swift, and your aim, true —
half the vertebrae in your back
your organs will still have momentum
after your body stops
abruptly
mincing your innards against shards of bones
and if you survive the fall, you’ll probably drown
unable to swim — assuming you’ve had a change of heart
of course, that particular height may not be enough
to get the job done
it’s on the margin between success and failure
unless the Delaware River is frozen
but that usually only happens further north
because the salt line is creeping up the river
from the Delaware Bay
aye, the Golden Gate is a better bet
70 feet higher — and the view is sublime
at least in pictures
it’s 60 degrees and sunny in San Fransisco today
and everyone has a tan
I’ve always wanted to see California
someday

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