My grandmother’s mood picked up with the wind and snow.
We drove past the gas station, that excuse for cigarettes
just to get out, raced across the corn flats to the lake, to the overlook,
where she went sprawling out of the car—got up and ran
to the stone wall lining the cliff, hopped up, unbuttoned
her full-length coat, and let it flap. Winged, she leaned into the storm.
I knew she wouldn’t jump. I understood that she gathered strength;
there, felt most alive. She called to me, but I didn’t go. I wasn’t freezing.
I mostly shook because what she did I someday might have to do.
I stood behind and below her, shielded and short of the coat’s whip.
She kept telling me to step up and look, look, but all I did was cover
my face, peek around. The snow burned. Any gaps in my fingers revealed
white blowing, and any gaps in that revealed the dark blue
wallpaper of water with more white—waves crashing. Crashing through
came a flock of geese, barely skimming the cliffs, using them for draft,
as my grandmother did. So close. She stretched both arms up
as if to grab on, but that wasn’t going to happen. She screamed,
“Yes, yes,” and “more, more,” both the crowd and a conductor.
Scott Withiam is the author of Arson & Prophets, a collection of poems published by The Ashland Poetry Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Green Mountains Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry East, and Poetry International. Poems are forthcoming in Ploughshares and Tar River Poetry. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (updated 3/2010)