Susan Cohen


“When I was spinning the first 10, 20 seconds, I never thought I was going to lose my life but I 
was disappointed because I'm going to lose my record.”—Felix Baumgartner, who jumped 26 
miles from the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier as he fell.

He had time as he dropped
to celebrate himself
as a feather falling
at the same rate as rock, 
as a windfall of apples,
canvas carved into sail, 
master mariner, first man,
Adam of the stratosphere, 
Icarus come back to report 
from the sun’s proximity.
To think: God must see me now
that I’m a cinder in his eye.

Time to remember,
and therefore to regret. 
Worthless. What if. Son of a bitch.
Time, entering the atmosphere
with minutes yet, to picture
himself on the ground, 
legs whole under him.
Buckled. White-knuckled.

A long time trying not to listen
for the chuckle of his blood 
if it began to boil.

Silence as he calculated
terminal velocity and counted
and counted and counted
on gravitational pull,
the one sure thing
any of us will ever know,
and wished he had prepared
a prayer with airtight snaps.

Time (how much more?)
as his shoulders ached
to feel that first jerk of chute.
Falling. Failing. Fallible.  
Nightfall. Landfall. Merciful.

A lifetime, as the planet, then 
the country, then 
New Mexico rushed up 
to ask him why he didn’t find
the ordinary plunge 
from birth to death 
terrifying enough.