voices out of the West, mostly poetry, personal to planetary...

May 5, 2014

Trina Ortega

poet & freelance writer/editor

Managing Editor of the Mountain Flyer

Carbondale Colorado

The Gate of the Setting Sun


It’s not the longest bridge in the San Francisco Bay

nor is it the greatest engineering feat

but the Golden Gate Bridge is the most alluring.

It's both left brain and right brain

Hard edged and swoopy

Grounded to the earth yet floating in the sky


Hundreds of vertical cables play in concert

with two gigantic spanning cables to offset the weight of the voyagers

The elegant steel towers — with their geometric

Art Deco chevrons and rectangles — anchor the load

Some days their magnificent reach

even pulls a little bit of heaven from beyond the fog


It is a monument.

It is a gateway for some who venture across

to play in the redwoods

to splash in the waves of the Pacific

or simply to reach a quieter home along the shore


Others seek a different kind of journey from the bridge

They’re called “jumpers” – these people who want to disappear

Jumpers who can’t face the unfixable

Jumpers tired of asking: What does it matter anyway?

Jumpers, who take a leap of faith,

desperate that the next life will have an answer


A friend once talked about how she sought out such a bridge.

In the heart of her small mountain town,

she stood on a concrete span 30 feet above a cold wintery river

She calculated the plunge and lamented the short distance


But from the walkway of the Golden Gate, it is 245 feet to the water

The fall takes approximately four seconds

and the speed has been estimated at 75 miles per hour

It is a 98 percent surefire suicide

Only 34 jumpers of more than 1500 have lived to tell

Those figures make it the nation’s No. 1 hot spot to die


A suspension bridge is built to hold exponential load

and the Golden Gate bears the sorrows of so many lost souls.

When the engineer designed it,

I don’t think he had this kind of burden in mind.

How do you calculate the weight of someone’s world?


A layer of paint on the gable-shaped hand rail of the bridge

hides chips and scratches of tourists names

Did you feel these imperfections, too, jumper?

Were these scars the last thing you touched?

We are all just visitors, aren’t we.


The Golden Gate now quietly harbors your fear and fatigue

It is a monument … of despair

But it doesn’t have to be

You don’t have to disappear

over the 4-foot-tall rail and off the 32-inch-wide beam

that even has its own special name -- “the chord”


Four seconds is not very long but it’s long enough

for a newborn baby to take her first breath

long enough for a hello and a handshake

long enough to share in a first kiss

long enough to hear the words “in remission”


Four seconds is not very long but it’s long enough

to realize you’ve made a mistake

to long for something you can’t take back

One one thousand,

two one thousand,

three one thousand,

four one thousand


Between the tall towers of the Golden Gate, along the walkway

where the ends are the beginnings and the middle is the end

are little blue signs that warn of the consequences of jumping.

If you stop for just a second, you can see the words:

“There is hope” is a non-commercial project, an online anthology, to share a poetic vision of the land we love.

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