The Jump


I’m taking a balloon up
Not the hot-air kind
No patchwork of red, yellow, green, and blue

This is a weather balloon
Silvery-white, semi-transparent
Filled with so much helium
It’s as big as a high-rise

And the basket?
It’s not wicker
It’s a space capsule

I’m not just going up
I’m going WAY up

It’s the slow way
Will take a few hours

From dust-devil desert
Hanger and airstrip

I rise
Over tan and green plane
Two-lane highway below
Cars smaller, slower

A sideways breeze
Moves me toward
A low mountain ridge
And I can see over it

A mile up now
I switch on the heat
And glance down
Sandhill cranes flying south

Five miles up
My breathing is faster, deeper
I switch on the oxygen
Spot in the distance
The nose of a jumbo jet
Cruising toward me

Ten miles up
It’s cloudless and dry
THIS is the stratosphere
The beginning of it

I’m gunna’ keep going
Near the TOP of the stratosphere
Where the sky gets dark
Dark blue
The edge of space

But I didn’t rise here
To look around
Nor to explore

I came up
To go down

To jump
From a height
No one has jumped from

To fall
A distance
No one has fallen

Hydraulic hiss
And the capsule’s round door rolls to the side
Letting in the sky
And the smaller earth
Twenty-four miles below

Protected by my space suit
Parachute scientifically packed
This is where I get off

Space helmet tilts only so far
So with thick glove fingertips
I feel for the seatbelt
Fumble at the latch
Belt comes free and drops

I shift my chair to the opening
To sky and earth

Gloved fingers fumble again
At last link between suit and capsule
The oxygen line
With a clumsy tug I detach it

I pull myself outside
Onto the step

I stand
Above the world
Tan and green
See its curve

My heart starts pounding
My breathing becomes rapid


I don’t remember
Why I’m here

Standing alone
In space

I’m terrified
Like when I was a boy

What am I gunna’ do?

I’m afraid of falling
Of my stomach lifting
The earth pulling me back
Never wanted me to leave
Pulling me faster and faster
To jet speed
Then breaking the sound barrier
My body
In a space suit
For minutes

I have no control
Can only breathe
And pray

That I make it

I’m standing
Above the world
Tan and green and curved

Heartbeat quiet
Breathing slow

I can’t go back into the capsule

Can’t do anything but…

1 Comment

Filed under Essay, Poetry

One response to “The Jump

  1. Nice – I like “I came up to go down” and I like the concept of forgetting why he’s out there, afraid of falling – you put us inside the space suit

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