Anne Barbara Ridler

(30 July 1912 – 15 October 2001 / Rugby, England)

Free Fall - Poem by Anne Barbara Ridler

A long while, a long long while it seems:
The bat-winged figure shaking his robe,
The cameras purring.

It is Daedalus the tailor, up on the Eiffel Tower
Ready to fly. The year is 1900;
We watch it, now.

...Shakes at his bat-robe, first to the right,
Then left, then right again, a twitch,
A doubtful gesture.

'Cast thyself from the pinnacle, angels will bear thee up.'
So great a height - the wings will surely beat
And bear me up?

Shaking his robe. A mile of film we are wasting:
Why doesn't he jump? In these long seconds
What is he thinking?

That the plan was crazy, and the careful stitches
Shaped him a shroud? Perhaps he is wondering
How to withdraw.

To pretend a flaw in the work, a change in the wind;
And imagines how it would be to face
The jeering crowd,

Slink back to his trade and live, with nothing to live for.
So still he hesitates, and shakes his shroud,
Then, suddenly, jumps.

Not even a flap from the wings. The lens below
Can barely follow the plummeting shape,
So quick his fall,

Hollowing out his own grave.
We are caught between dismay and laughter
Watching it now -

Not in a myth, not a century back, but now.
Ridiculous death. Yet as he stood on the tower,
Shaking, shaking his robe,

He mimed what each man must in private try,
Poised on the parapet of darkness -
Each in that crowd, and you, reader, and I.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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