Had she jumped with him
from their small boat
into those wind-walling waves
in the Bay of Banderas,
to cool off that cloudless afternoon—
like he asked, like they’d done before—
long-marrieds straddling sixty:
he in his element, proud swimmer
reborn every hot holiday,
and she, fearful of surf, actually preferring
the freefall into deep water;
had she also been fooled
by the wind—travelling a whole knot
faster than they thought, making
any progress incremental, quickly lost,
no matter one’s muscle or desire—
the boat slowly drifting away
until he had to tread water,
water too deep to anchor in,
water slapping his face,
no one else in sight and he
like a man betrayed, frowning;
had she said yes feeling no,
who could have asked the next question?—
and start the engine
when he nodded in disbelief,
backing up the boat until the swim ladder
was within reach, and as the water surged
and pushed him hard against it, help
pull him sputtering from the great
mother sea, naked as at birth,
and wrap him in a towel, her arms.
Suddenly as old as their children
already thought they were.
An anniversary gift, her first time doing it
Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, hugged the pilot
from behind as instructed, ran with him
awkwardly to the edge and stepped
into the wind-tug beyond anyone’s reach—
her harness not clipped on. She fell
like Icarus a thousand feet, melting
from sight with the pilot’s shoes
into a sea of limbs webbed with leaves
down, down to the forest floor.
Her boyfriend, filming it,
stopped. Love screamed
through the air as he ran down
Mt. Woodside to find her.
Until he did, there was hope.
The pilot glided back to an open
mouthed crowd, to his twelve
year old daughter watching,
and swallowed the memory
card onboard. His fiftieth birthday.
Who hasn’t known each of them
in dreams?—where we fall without
falling, see what can’t be happening,
get to creatively escape a bad scene.
And wake relieved, our lives still
hanging by a thread of assumptions.
This poem won the 2016 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize. It reads like fiction but is completely factual – sadly so. I received the news New Year’s Eve and it appeared in IthacaLit early January, 2017. An auspicious start to the year! This poem is also included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this spring. Copies are available for preorder here: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/