Friday Poem (Jumping out of an airplane edition)


I'm not going to be around today. As a present to my wife, I'm taking her sky-diving for the first time - a harness jump from 13,000 feet with approximately one minute of free-fall. It's a surprise, so shhhhhhhh! Actually, by the time you read this, we will be beginning our short orientation before hitting the skies.

Perhaps the real surprise is that I'm going to be jumping as well - I'm not a huge fan of heights (though I like flying), so this may be interesting.

Pictured above, via Google Earth is Eloy (AZ) at 13,000 feet, looking SE towards Tucson. The airport (and thus the starting point for this little adventure) is in the lower middle of the picture. Here's a bigger version.

So, this seemed apt ... not so much a poem as a song lyric - "Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd:

Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction holding me fast, how
Can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Cant keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, i

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to guide my way home
Unladened, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension thats learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Cant keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, i

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

Theres no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Cant keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, i

Update later ...

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Hey John, Have fun diving -- by far the best poem I know about falling out of an airplane is James Dickey's "Falling." I think it's his best poem, and if it's a little long, it's worth reading all the way through. The Poetry Foundation has it online:

I went tandem skydiving in New Zealand and was the last one in my tour group to make the jump. While I was on the ground watching everyone else "de-plane," I had a lot of time to contemplate what I was about to do.

When I got up there, the hardest mental hurdle to overcome was having to scoot out to the very edge of the plane's hatch with my feet dangling over the side.

I don't remember much after that except feeling exhilarated and scared witless at the same time and thinking, "Please let the chute open!"

I'm I glad did it? Yes. Would I do it again? No. Once was enough.

I went on a tandem in Longmont, CO a couple of years ago and remember being really excited and curious in the plane while watching the landmarks get smaller and smaller. No fear.

The only moment of hesitation came right at the door, whereupon I suddenly thought, "Wait. This is a perfectly good plane. What thought that this was a good ideAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!"

I would totally go again. Loved it.

John, welcome to the friendly skies! I don't know if you'll be bitten, few are, but skydiving is the greatest sport in the world.