You fall from a horse enough times
and you learn how to fall—
like snow, rain or love,
all goose-down and no elbows.
He spooks at a leaf, knocking you
sideways, the saddle slips—and well,
you’re going down again.
Relax, you’ll get used to it.
Relax, you say to the lobster,
just before plopping him
into the roiling pot.
Relax, you say to a friend
on the eve of another bender.
Or to yourself, falling off a ledge
onto a concrete floor.
It’s easy when you imagine
a soft landing. But when your mother
sinks into her pillow in her final hour,
she knows she’s not falling the right way.
Blah, blah, blah, she mouths,
flicking the back of her bruised hand
as if brushing away a gnat,
when the priest lowers his head
to trace the thumbprint of oil,
first up and down, then sideways
on her glistening forehead.
* * *
Poet Lore: Your poem seems to be a treatise on handling loss. Do you believe there is such thing as a happy ending?
Julie Wendell: Fate is a series of inevitable accidents. You can't change that, but you can become good at the accidents. I have been falling off horses for years, and like anything you do a lot, you get better at it. There's a way to fall and not get hurt. You can practice the falls until you're so good at them your conscious mind doesn't even obsess over them anymore. But there are other falls you can't rehearse, like losing your mother. After some falls, you don't land the right way; you break your hip, you lose your life. Loss, you have to practice that too. Does anyone really want to say she doesn't believe in happy endings? I guess that's why some of us cry when we hear about a friend having a baby.
Julia Wendell’s most recent book of poems is Take This Spoon (Main Street Rag, 2014). She is the author of several other poetry collections, as well as a memoir, Finding My Distance (Galileo Press, 2009). She currently lives in South Carolina with her husband, poet and essayist Barrett Warner, and is finishing another memoir, Come to the X.