for Felix Baumgartner
The man was happy in the garden
that had been made for him,
when naming everything was the best way
of partaking of it. And not just trees,
but especially the trees,
which reminded him so much of … what?
The mind at rest, the mind at play,
which are much the same thing,
together with the mind at work.
O Blessed Fall! We can say what happened,
and in that saying we are further blessed.
So it was with your jump,
when you weren’t heard
to say much of anything,
knowing that you’d do well to listen
to someone who had gone before you,
though not so high, or perhaps thinking
that in breaking the speed of sound,
you might as well just listen to yourself,
silent, falling through time and space
and so much more silence.
Doubtless a lot of preparation
preceded those ten minutes;
a lot of preparation and a lot of numbers,
by which we can now measure your record,
if not your actual achievement.
For the fall itself is beyond math and even myth;
it’s as if you dared to be Icarus,
knowing the end of Icarus,
or even Lucifer, ignoring the end of everything.
This had to be different.
The helium balloon ascent
must have been decent enough,
for who doesn’t like to just float
along for a little while,
thinking of all the earthbound souls below,
taking in the view before
going through a final checklist?
We all hope for some final ascent,
even if we have trouble believing it.
It’s only human. What you’ve shown us
is just how beautiful and right
such a well considered descent can be;
freefalling through the wild blue yonder
at Mach 1.24 depends on a lot of virtue:
Courage, certainly, so little understood
as a kind of humility. Self-control, Diligence,
Patience, Wisdom … the list goes on,
and nothing good is accomplished without them.
Gliding on gossamer to such a glorious finish,
what you revealed to all the disparate
and even desperate souls
peering into screens all over the world
(give us Disaster or a Sign from Heaven,
anything but our all too ordinary lives!)
was a combination of Victory and Gratitude—
fists in the air, knees on the ground—
knowing how sweet the earth must be,
how sweet the earth.