Tag Archive | james dickey

Falling; James Dickey

FALLING

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 and out and lie there rolling     when they turn
To something transcontinental     move by     drawing moonlight out of the great
Onesided 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 halfspread
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 headdown
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head     gold eyes     the
insight
eyesight of owls blazing into 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 people     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 me eyes superhumanly
Bright     to the dammed 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 out 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 among 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 lighting 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

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