A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her death tonight when she was swept through an emergency door that suddenly sprang open ... The body ... was found ... three hours after the accident. —New York Times The states when they black out and lie there rolling when they turn To something transcontinental move by drawing moonlight out of the great One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip some sleeper next to An engine is groaning for coffee and there is faintly coming in Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks Of trays she rummages for a blanket and moves in her slim tailored Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew The door down with a silent blast from her lungs frozen she is black Out finding herself with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat The undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be something That no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation her hat Still on her arms and legs in no world and yet spaced also strangely With utter placid rightness on thin air taking her time she holds it In many places and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems To slow she develops interest she turns in her maneuverable body To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her Self in low body-whistling wrapped intensely in all her dark dance-weight Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease Of a dream of being drawn like endless moonlight to the harvest soil Of a central state of one’s country with a great gradual warmth coming Over her floating finding more and more breath in what she has been using For breath as the levels become more human seeing clouds placed honestly Below her left and right riding slowly toward them she clasps it all To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways and Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide wider and suck All the heat from the cornfields can go down on her back with a feeling Of stupendous pillows stacked under her and can turn turn as to someone In bed smile, understood in darkness can go away slant slide Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread Or whirl madly on herself in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon. There is time to live In superhuman health seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it arriving In a square town and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches The moon by its one shaken side scaled, roaming silver My God it is good And evil lying in one after another of all the positions for love Making dancing sleeping and now cloud wisps at her no Raincoat no matter all small towns brokenly brighter from inside Cloud she walks over them like rain bursts out to behold a Greyhound Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight Down like a glorious diver then feet first her skirt stripped beautifully Up her face in fear-scented cloths her legs deliriously bare then Arms out she slow-rolls over steadies out waits for something great To take control of her trembles near feathers planes head-down The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head gold eyes the insight- eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops a taste for chicken overwhelming Her the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars Freight trains looped bridges enlarging the moon racing slowly Through all the curves of a river all the darks of the midwest blazing From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white the smothering chickens Huddle for over them there is still time for something to live With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop a hurtling a fall That is controlled that plummets as it wills turns gravity Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon shining New Powers there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing But the whole night time for her to remember to arrange her skirt Like a diagram of a bat tightly it guides her she has this flying-skin Made of garments and there are also those sky-divers on TV sailing In sunlight smiling under their goggles swapping batons back and forth And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion white teeth nowhere She is screaming singing hymns her thin human wings spread out From her neat shoulders the air beast-crooning to her warbling And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world now She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it lose And gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring up Its local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs if she fell Into water she might live like a diver cleaving perfect plunge Into another heavy silver unbreathable slowing saving Element: there is water there is time to perfect all the fine Points of diving feet together toes pointed hands shaped right To insert her into water like a needle to come out healthily dripping And be handed a Coca-Cola there they are there are the waters Of life the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir so let me begin To plane across the night air of Kansas opening my eyes superhumanly Bright to the damned moon opening the natural wings of my jacket By Don Loper moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use It she is now through with all through all clouds damp hair Straightened the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing New darks new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos And night a gradual warming a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own Country a great stone of light in its waiting waters hold hold out For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body And fly and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned Water stored up for her for years the arms of her jacket slipping Air up her sleeves to go all over her? What final things can be said Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night Air to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward the blazing-bare lake Her skirts neat her hands and face warmed more and more by the air Rising from pastures of beans and under her under chenille bedspreads The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding On the scratch-shining posts of the bed dreaming of female signs Of the moon male blood like iron of what is really said by the moan Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight passing Over brush fires burning out in silence on little hills and will wake To see the woman they should be struggling on the rooftree to become Stars: for her the ground is closer water is nearer she passes It then banks turns her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must Do something with water fly to it fall in it drink it rise From it but there is none left upon earth the clouds have drunk it back The plants have sucked it down there are standing toward her only The common fields of death she comes back from flying to falling Returns to a powerful cry the silent scream with which she blew down The coupled door of the airliner nearly nearly losing hold Of what she has done remembers remembers the shape at the heart Of cloud fashionably swirling remembers she still has time to die Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour Of cornfields and have enough time to kick off her one remaining Shoe with the toes of the other foot to unhook her stockings With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair Near death when the body will assume without effort any position Except the one that will sustain it enable it to rise live Not die nine farms hover close widen eight of them separate, leaving One in the middle then the fields of that farm do the same there is no Way to back off from her chosen ground but she sheds the jacket With its silver sad impotent wings sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece Of her skirt the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse the intimate Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost Of a virgin sheds the long windsocks of her stockings absurd Brassiere then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter shake In her hand and float upward her clothes rising off her ascending Into cloud and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe Like a dumb bird and now will drop in SOON now will drop In like this the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas down from all Heights all levels of American breath layered in the lungs from the frail Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after Her last superhuman act the last slow careful passing of her hands All over her unharmed body desired by every sleeper in his dream: Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves Arisen at sunrise the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn Toward clouds all feel something pass over them as she passes Her palms over her long legs her small breasts and deeply between Her thighs her hair shot loose from all pins streaming in the wind Of her body let her come openly trying at the last second to land On her back This is it THIS All those who find her impressed In the soft loam gone down driven well into the image of her body The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep In her mortal outline in the earth as it is in cloud can tell nothing But that she is there inexplicable unquestionable and remember That something broke in them as well and began to live and die more When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth Caught her interrupted her maiden flight told her how to lie she cannot Turn go away cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her hold her in his arms Plummet with her unfold above her his wedding silks she can no longer Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls or all the back-breaking whores Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one Breath it is all gone and yet not dead not anywhere else Quite lying still in the field on her back sensing the smells Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner Of one eye fading seeing something wave lies believing That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess State to water gone in headfirst come out smiling invulnerable Girl in a bathing-suit ad but she is lying like a sunbather at the last Of moonlight half-buried in her impact on the earth not far From a railroad trestle a water tank she could see if she could Raise her head from her modest hole with her clothes beginning To come down all over Kansas into bushes on the dewy sixth green Of a golf course one shoe her girdle coming down fantastically On a clothesline, where it belongs her blouse on a lightning rod: Lies in the fields in this field on her broken back as though on A cloud she cannot drop through while farmers sleepwalk without Their women from houses a walk like falling toward the far waters Of life in moonlight toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands that tragic cost Feels herself go go toward go outward breathes at last fully Not and tries less once tries tries AH, GOD—
From The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992 (Wesleyan University Press) by James Dickey. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Used with permission of Wesleyan University Press.
The author of numerous collections of poetry, James Dickey's work experimented with language and syntax, addressing humanity and violence by presenting the instincts of humans and animals as antithetical to the false safety of civilization.
Date Published: 1992-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/falling