How To Fly Off a Twenty-Story Balcony Without Really Trying
I grip the railing with my hands or I will climb over and fly.
I spread out my feet, keep them flat on the ground for fear
I will lift the right one and climb over. Afraid of heights, man?
You’re grabbing on like a race car driver at the finish line.
I tell him to fuck off. He could never fly. Men like him drive
the California coastal highway south to north to avoid the edge.
Not me. I drove towards LA with a two-hundred-foot drop
beckoning to me the whole way. I wanted to swerve over.
My passenger almost wet her pants. She could never fly either.
It takes a certain boldness to want to go over, to yearn for it,
to feel the pull of it, to appreciate the incredible beauty of it.
I have to push backwards now, like a man on a ship in choppy
waters. I steady myself as I stumble to the sliding door, squeeze
the panel, and pull. It’s stuck so I have to bang on it. Easy, Dude.
Just flip the latch, see? I throw it open and rush in to the farthest
point, my back to the balcony. It is better to not listen to its call.
I sit on a chair, slam my knees together with my hands between them.
I focus on my legs and ignore the others. None of them could ever fly.
I am the only one who knows how to do it right, how to enjoy it.
There are so many ways to fly.
Jimmy Pappas served during the Vietnam War as an English language instructor training South Vietnamese soldiers. His poem “Bobby’s Story” about the life of a Vietnam veteran won the Rattle 2018 Readers Choice Award. It is contained in his full-length book of war-related poems Scream Wounds (A15 Press, 2019). His chapbook Falling off the Empire State Building was selected as a winner of the Rattle Chapbook Contest and will be published in March 2020.