Sunday 30 August 2020

The Art of Falling

by Julia Wendell

Come off a horse enough times,
and you learn how to fall—
as it is with snow, rain or love,
all goose-down, no elbows.
The horse spooks at a leaf, knocking
you sideways, saddle slipping—
and well, you’re going down again.
Relax, you’ll get used to it.
Relax, you say to the lobster,
just before plopping him
into the roiling pot.
Relax, you say to a friend,

on the eve of another bender.
You say it to yourself,
when falling off a barn ledge
onto the concrete shed row floor.

It’s easy to imagine
a soft landing.
But when your mother sinks

into her pillow in her final hour,
she knows she’s not falling with grace.
Blah, blah, blah, she mouths,

flicking the back of her needle-bruised hand,
as if to brush away a gnat,
as the priest lowers his head

to trace the thumbprint of oil,
first up and down, then sideways,
on her glistening forehead.

* * * * *

"The Art of Falling" originally appeared in Poet Lore.

Julia Wendell's memoir, Come to the X, has recently been published by Galileo Press. Her most recent book of poems is Take This Spoon. Her poems have been widely published in such places as American Poetry Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Aiken, South Carolina, and is a three-day event rider.