Momentum by Catherine Doty
Your friends won’t try to talk you out of the barrel,
or your brag to go first, which has nothing to do with bravery.
And you’re so hungry to earn their love you forget
to claim first your, perhaps, last look at this mountain—
crab apples hanging sour in the sun, abandoned Buick,
a favorite place to play, dismantled and weathered
and delicate as a voting booth. Instead you dive straight away
and headfirst into darkness, the steel drum that dusts you,
like a chicken part, with rust. Looking out, there’s nothing
to see of your friends but their calves, which are scabby,
and below them the filthy sneakers, shifting, shifting,
every foot aching to kick you off this cliff.
Their faces, you know, are blank with anticipation,
the look you see when they watch TV eating popcorn.
They’re already talking about you as if you’re gone,
as if you boarded a bus and roared out of earshot,
when one foot flashes forward and launches you.
You know as you feel that first solid slam you are lost.
The barrel changes shape with each crash to earth,
as you will later, assuming and losing lives, but this
is so true now: ankles flayed to the bone, cracked ribs
and crushed mint, the brittle, pissy sumac. Right now
the pin oaks are popping in their sockets, the hillside
wears your shoes, clouds pleat and buck. You know, of course,
that no one’s going second, and friends who tell this story
will use the word idiot, rolling their hands in the air,
but you know you know what your life is for now and rise up,
and just about scalp yourself on that tree limb above you,
another thing you couldn’t possibly know was coming,
another which, like your first breath, was not your idea.