The Falling Man

local_library The Falling Man

by Gary J. Whitehead

Published in Issue No. 237 ~ February, 2017

In the most

known photo

he looks just

like a

diver—

mid-descent, the

steel his sea—so

slowly he

seems to

fall, one

black leg

bent as in that

other kind of

dive (a can opener

I think they

call it), but

his a dive from the

burning

tower of his

life, from

Windows on the

World,

leaving this

world from the

ledge of

his assured

death.

What

the lesser known

photographs show

is the wind

stripping him

of his bright white shirt,

the talons of that

eagle-eyed

mid-morning air tearing

at his salmon tee,

and not really grace,

not really quietude

at all

but a flailing plunge,

a loss of control

in the last act

he could control,

which was to leap

from the relative safety

of that high floor, hot

as it was

and smoke-choked,

into the unsolid air,

which might be

like heaven

but fleet

and palpable

and there

for all of us to see

and—for those

who were

there—

to hear.

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Gary J. Whitehead's poems recently appear or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Epoch, and The Massachusetts Review. His third book of poetry, A Glossary of Chickens, was chosen by Paul Muldoon for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and published in 2013 by Princeton University Press. His work has been featured on Garrison Keillor's NPR program The Writer's Almanac and on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Guardian’s Poem of the Week. Whitehead has been the recipient of the Anne Halley Poetry Prize (The Massachusetts Review), a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and the Princeton University Distinguished Secondary School Teaching Award. A featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Princeton Poetry Festival, he teaches English at Tenafly High School in New Jersey and lives in the Hudson valley of New York.