A boy and two friends walked in trunks and flipflops
to the cliff over the beach in old Santa Barbara
two hundred feet below was Mesa Lane Beach and then
lots of ocean out to the Channel Islands and horizon.
The first boy who was neither the oldest nor youngest
ran fast to the edge above the slope of iceplant
but stopped himself and his rash momentum before
going over, throwing himself on the ground for safety.
The second boy was not so chicken and he raced
along the same dirty path overlooking the blue-green
infinity below that eventually would embrace Hawaii
and at the knob in the eucalyptus roots he leapt
like a winged monkey or a squirrel between trees
he flew through the air mostly downward for long
enough to get a scream out of his buddies landing
on his feet then rolling recklessly out of the green
just where the rocks started to drop very vertically
over the zigzagging cutaway path they knew
wouldn’t have held him or given any handholds
but he grabbed the very last scrub oak two-fistedly.
Hooting and hollering above was commenced in
praise and recognition of closeness to death and while
they made wild noise the boy’s body clambered
with bloody bare feet up to grassy safety.
The third boy, the one nobody figured would have
been the exception hopped down through bushes
and succulents and shade to his compadre breathing
as fast as a dog and just as not able to talk.
‘You okay?’ was all he said and without an answer
he raised his eyes to where the blue met the blue
where the sea half his life below met the hazy
sky further out than anyone could possibly swim.
Then his eyes went higher and wider and fuller
then his legs picked him up and he stood in front
of his two hurt and reality-stricken schoolmates
gazing into nowhere and standing like a crucifix.
As the two voices together said, ‘Don’t do it’
he leaned willingly and submissively into thick
air carrying promises, air lifting clouds, and air
whispering luckily tiered aphorisms.
Taking wing, he raised tipped and angled questions
figuring the heights, he lowered his gravity
traveling the world, he learned five languages
leaving behind doubt and earth.