The Parachutist

It is about to be a moment Bruegel
could have painted. There are the builders
on the roof next door working, their hammers
reporting in the still air. From them to the edge
of the world a red square has opened. More tiles
are neatly stacked beneath them, waiting. A tractor
is going about its business reorganising nature.
An aeroplane is in the dreamy faraway
blue of the sky, And a man is falling.
For the record, he is working for the BBC.
He is filming a careful reconstruction
for a programme that lines up miraculous
survivals. It is his third jump of the day,
and his last. For the sake of Continuity
he has struggled into someone else’s
equipment as well as into someone else’s
moment not to die. He takes his two mile
walk on air. His helmet camera rolls.
The men on the roof look up. Across the air
his shouts are clear, “Oh no, Oh no, Oh no,”
They watch him loosening the tie of life to life,
and feel their own precariousness threaten.
He ends a mile away through trees in marshy
ground and leaves the world in silence. It takes
the searchers hours to dig his body out.
For days he’s falling through the village overhead.
Planes circle in our heads. He never seems
to land. An ending has us in its grasp.

Ellingham
February 1993
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