Freefall

By Susan Cohen

A daredevil announces he will freefall 23 miles to earth.

 
He plans to plummet
from the edge of space.
Freefall. Rainfall. Whirlwind.
He'll break the sound barrier
in a supersonic suit, and cascade
like a waterfall of screams. 
Freewheeling. Squealing. Whoosh.

I imagine as he drops
he'll have time to celebrate himself
as a feather falling
at the same rate as rock, 
as a windfall of apples,
canvas carved into sail, 
master mariner, first man,
Adam of the stratosphere, Icarus
come back to report 
from the sun's proximity.
To think: God must see me now
that I'm a cinder in his eye.

Time to remember,
and therefore to regret. 
Worthless. What if. Son of a bitch.
Time, entering the atmosphere
with minutes yet, to picture
himself on the ground, 
legs whole under him.
Buckled, white-knuckled.

A long time trying not to listen
for the chuckle of his blood 
if it begins to boil.

Silence as he calculates
terminal velocity and counts
and counts and counts
on gravitational pull,
the one sure thing
any of us will ever know,
and wishes he'd prepared
a prayer with airtight snaps.

Time (how much more?)
as his shoulders ache
to feel that first jerk of chute.
Falling. Failing. Fallible.
Nightfall. Landfall. Merciful.

A lifetime, as the planet, then 
the country, then 
New Mexico rushes up 
to ask him why he didn't find
the ordinary plunge 
from birth to death 
terrifying enough.
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About Susan Cohen

Susan Cohen’s first full-length book of poems is Throat Singing (WordTech; 2012). Her recent poetry honors include the Rita Dove Poetry Award, an Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, the Anderbo Poetry Prize, and honorable mentions from River Styx and the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Her poems have appeared in Greensboro Review, Nimrod, Poetry International, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals. Formerly a journalism professor at UC Berkeley and a contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine, she co-authored Normal at Any Cost; Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height (Tarcher/Penguin; 2009), which won awards from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the National Association of Science Writers. She lives in Berkeley, and is earning an MFA in poetry from Pacific University in Oregon.

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