Today's poem is by Chelsea Rathburn

The Rescue

Jetlagged, we'd napped through the sirens'
accumulations until sirens
were all we heard. And in the confusion

between dreaming and waking, an officer
outside our fourth-door window,
floating in air. Below, a moving

ladder, a truck. The policeman—
we were sure now he was real—steadied
a stretcher, someone readied a net.

Across the street, along the Seine,
a crowd waited and watched. And we
waited and watched—how could we turn

away?—leaning out with glasses
of wine to see the crowd below
and the rescue, if there was one.

For a long time, preparations:
raising and lowering the crane,
aligning it, tightening the straps.

Such gruesome possibilities:
something so wrong or urgent
that it couldn't be carried downstairs.

Then the crane withdrew, the policeman
at the stretcher, a paramedic
holding an oxygen mask.The body,

as it was lowered, became a woman
who was packed into an ambulance
and taken away. The crowd dispersed.

The mask had erased everything
but her eyelids, caked in startling blue.
An overdose-a suicide—
a prostitute? We'd never know.
And if the story made the papers,
we didn't see it, we couldn't have read.

With no one to ask, we were left
with what we saw and didn't see
unfolding in another language,

the long build-up and denouement
understood in parts, if at all.
And were we any better than

the tourists with their cameras
waiting, hoping, for a jump or fall?
The truth is, I drank slowly,

and with pleasure, and the wine was cold
and tart, and undiminished by
the body at the window. The truth

is that I watched because I thought
it would make a good story,
and because it made me feel something—

guilt, yes, but also happiness
because it wasn't happening to me.
Later we found a wallet on the street

stuffed with bills the same blue
as her eyes. We spent all night looking
for its owner, doesn't that prove

that we're good?

Copyright © 2013 Chelsea Rathburn All rights reserved
from Five Points
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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