Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 16 . . .

Diving in Arizona

     by Prairie L. Markussen

          for Eric

Once you were parallel
to a bird’s flighted path:
You shuffled to the plane’s
opening, hamstrings tingling
in the hunch. You obeyed
instructions, as your mind
pulsed and shrunk to pupil
size; reticent and greedy.
With a man strapped to your back,
you closed your eyes,
leaned forward and fell:
belly seeing its chance
to meet the earth, to join
up again with its beginning.
Was it before or after the chute
opened, during the float
or the fall, that your two
heads turned and saw
the bird? Whisking its way
through the air, more
accustomed to this phenomenon
than the man with you, who
said, “Ten jumps in a day,
my friend. It’s a job.” You
watched the bird share space;
your mind contracted and
spread wide. “Ten jumps
in a day, my friend. And
I’ve never seen that.” The
bird kept with you, then
veered and dropped altitude.
You did the same, spiraling
downward. Lifting your legs,
skidding and gliding to a
standstill, you and the man
grooved the dust across the
landing area. He separated
himself and you became only
you again, with two legs,
shaky enough, but holding.
              Driving home, there
was a flash of white, a flutter,
and the noise of skimming
as a bird, flying too low, nearly
hit your windshield. And you,
in a moment’s confusion, in a
kind of seventy-mile-per-hour
daze, felt the freefall again,
felt your belly shrink, and
get lost in a brilliant severance
from anything that does not fly or fall.

Prairie L. Markussen lives and writes in Chicago. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL and an MA in Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University, Wales. She has been published in various literary journals including The Fiddlehead, Louisiana Literature, Epicenter, and Rattle.

© 2010 Prairie L. Markussen