by Ian Hollyer
Once you realize that both pull strings are broken, it’s best not to panic.
Yes, you’re falling at 176 feet-per-second, but try and take a deep breath (even
in the scarce oxygen).
Screaming may seem appropriate, but try and restrain yourself. It only makes
you look insecure.
Instead, notice how the morning light plays on the emerald hills below.
Feel the sun warm your neck, and the wind scrambling your hair.
Even with all that air rushing by your eardrum, try turning your head.
You might even hear the faint wisp of a church bell from the valley.
Try tilting your face upward to the clouds, and see how the rising light burns
their edges pink and red.
Take in the freeness. Close your eyes, imagine, this is probably what an eagle
And don’t over-think it. Remember,
it’s not every day you get this kind of view.
This “how to” poem provides “you,” the reader, with instructions on how to react when your parachute is broken and you’re in freefall. The poem opens “in media res,” in the middle of the action — a life threatening situation. The first six lines acknowledge the urgency of your position, but advise you to stay calm. “Instead,” signals the turn of the poem as it changes focus and describes the view. The word “try” is repeated twice, urging you to try to appreciate the beauty around you from this new perspective. On one level, the poem is literally about skydiving. But how useful is this advice? How many of us are ever going to find ourselves skydiving? On a figurative level, the poem is a lesson on how to respond to any crisis or problem: don’t panic, try to find the positive, and enjoy the view. I hope you’ll remember this poem and find your inner eagle the next time your parachute doesn’t open.