Evelyn McHale, age 24, died New York City, May 1 1947
Patrolman John Morrisey saw the white scarf falling, calling his attention, before the crowd surged, and converged on 34th street.
She lay feet folded, moulded into the crumple of what had been a United Nations limousine. Student photographer Robert Wiles was on the spot and got the perfect shot. Evelyn seemed at peace: a nymph cupped in a leaf.
She was a bookkeeper on Pearl Street, she made sure things were neat. She folded her coat. She had written a note: you’re better off without me, I have my mother’s tendency. Evelyn caught the train early that morning, there’d been no warning. She kissed her fiancée goodbye and stepped into the empty sky.
Thich Quang Duc, age 81, died Siagon, 11 June 1963.
Duc rotates prayer beads,
Duc strikes one match
and becomes the blaze.
He does not move:
a lotus flower
on the cushion,
This is my body, burning:
the dukkha of petals,
the ego of Kings.
Monks carry Duc’s remains
to the pagoda.
The odour of
burnt flesh and gasoline
fill the temple.
It is the scent of lotus flowers.
(III) Song of John Doe
Unknown man, age 20-30, died July 28, 1995, Regina, Saskatchewan.
I am the son: my secret is hidden.
I am the choice: their horns could not move me.
I am the head: I took the rail as my pillow.
I am the walker: whose boots were size twelve.
I am the mark: that the silver pen made here.
I am the man: they remember my manners.
I am the hands: so carefully clean.
I am the diner: I folded my napkin.
I am the drifter: who spoke of the East.
I am the book: that remains undiscovered.
I am the photo: that could never be public.
I am the dream: that Kathy had whispered.
I am the keeper: of a rose made of silver.
Notes on sources:
- The Most Beautiful Suicide. Evelyn McHale, New York City, May 1 1947 https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/beautiful-suicide-evelyn-mchale-leapt-death-empire-state-building-1947/
- Thich Quang Duc, Saigon, 11 June 1963. The story behind the burning monk https://time.com/3791176/malcolm-browne-the-story-behind-the-burning-monk/
- John Doe, Regina Saskatchewen 1995 from this story https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/suicide-victim-s-identity-still-unknown-after-5-years-1.200798