When You Fell

by Rachel Rueckert

A question for my godson

Did you sense
a chill before you ascended that ladder
            your pupils growing in the barn light
            your child hand gripping rail
            careful to avoid a splinter
            careful to not look

Tell me
what you saw from the cupola
            orange-reds flaring
            on distant mountains
            bandaged bails
            of hay fermenting
            the misty fog
            before the rush
            of dusk—

                                                            I have to know

What you heard
if not
            the snap of a board as you
            took that little step
            on bowing wood
            your frantic breath
            the wind whistling
            as you flew
            past stripes of oak
            and cross beams—

Or was it an absence
of sound as you placed
            a sure foot
            behind you into

                                                            I have to know

What you felt
as your back smacked earth
            thirty feet below
            eyes clamped open
            cries far away but still
            here still your own
            able to wiggle all your toes
            hear your father’s thundering
            steps his wild prayers—

What did you think
at that moment of your good father
            who’d dared you to climb a little higher:
            no winning smile
            no armpit tickles
            no efforts to hide the hole left
            by his excavated faith
            a question raw and opened
            every day that you rise—

                                                            I have to know                        

                                                            What is a miracle?

RACHEL RUECKERT is an MFA candidate at Columbia, where she also teaches Contemporary Essays. Her work has appeared in River Teeth, The Maine Review, Hippocampus, Points in Case, The Carolina Quarterly, Sweet, Tupelo Quarterly, The Literary Review, Columbia Journal, Roads & Kingdoms, and others. She serves as the Editor in Chief of Exponent II and is hard at work on several book projects. Twitter @Rachel_Rueckert ; Website rachelrueckert.com.

Photo: “Morning light” by Carter Brown