Falling Out of the Barn

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 8 No. 4, "Winter's Promise." Find more from that issue here.

…For My Father

The summer I turned ten was when I slipped

from the third tier in the little tobacco barn.

I fell like a hoecake, a dream, a tumbling star,

cartwheeled through the aromatic dark

heavy with the fragrance of cured bottom primings,

past the thick tier poles that flashed by

like sleeping logs or huge hungry snakes,

vision blurring, falling falling down, down,

trying to remember what you said about learning

how to fall, the right way:

“If you climb,

you’re bound to fall. You only get one chance

to learn. You can’t take time to be scared:

save your scares for later. Go limp, to keep

your bones limber. If you have to, turn,

twist until you’re falling face down.

You got to see, to be able to pick the place

where you want to land. Hit on all fours,

like a cat you shake out of the damson tree.

You don’t fall, really: you drop yourself, slow,

and land rolling once you feel dirt under your feet.

Be careful thrashing around up there: watch out

your head doesn’t knock on any of the bottom tiers

on your way down. I heard that once: exactly

like you busted open a watermelon on a rock

or dropped a coconut. That boy was deader

than the one in the lions den in front of Daniel

long before he hit the ground. He stepped on

a kingsnake sleeping up on the top tiers.

That’s what I mean about not wasting time

with fear: you get scared, more often than not

you’re going to lose your head. And I almost forgot:

try not to fall on any of the flue pipes.

I just re-daubed them day before yesterday.

Now climb on up to the top and remember

what I said.”

I did. It worked. One time,

and once was enough.

— Virginia L. Rudder

Hurdle Mills, NC