by Steve Gaines

lacking the cliffs of Acapulco
in the flatlands of Nebraska
we discovered the tops of light poles
in the summer of nineteen fifty-five
in the long story of teenagers coming of age
coming on to the approaches of manhood
climbing out on that limb unsuspecting

in travelogues we had admired
the black haired young Mexican men
hurling themselves into the sea
sailing out over the rocks and tide
timing it just right
admiring and attractive young women in the foreground
watching them breathless and with anticipation

for us there were only the light poles
and young adolescent women
in the back ground hard to please
and somewhat distant
not Mexico at all but rife with the heat
of summer and daring the sharp
pushing the biological envelop

they were there to light the swimming area
but too conspicuous for us to let it go at that
overwhelmed by the new chemistry
and in the mood to forsake common sense

so we would climb them
thirty feet in the summer afternoon
all gleaming and sun tanned
playing with the unforgiving laws of gravity
and the fickle interest of our audience

one step at a time into the sky
building the suspense hesitant and reluctant
waiting for the shouts
of warning from the spectators
too terrible to watch
they seldom said a word
sat there on their beach towels
with indifference and disbelief
unable to shout anything that seemed
to the point

undeterred and on up the pole
like young gods into the sacrifice
prepared to throw ourselves into the void
all for the glory of what?
fifteen year old girls beside themselves
in awe and wonder
….lots of luck!

the diving platform was a guy wire
running between the poles
it was not meant for bouncing on
but we would bounce because we could
holding on to the pole top
until the moment seemed ripe
then letting go in an upward bounce
and into a random arc out and down
nothing like a swan dive from the cliffs
unless physics was suddenly on our side
providing the just right propulsion
….usually a flailing stumble of a flight
headlong toward the water
making every effort to remember
the scant four feet of water
waiting to catch us

one thought only!
pulling out somewhere short of the sand
and bed rock beneath the water
and planning the triumphant moment of surfacing
hair thrown back in a spray of water
arms in the air in celebration

or wondering how to float
long enough with a broken neck
until the ambulance arrived
and how we could avoid the
“didn’t we tell you so” looks from our
appalled admirers

each new time raised the ante
on these outcomes
narrowing the odds of success
and dulling the senses of even the most
once was luck
and twelve times boring

we would only perform for “new audiences”
only attempt the “impossible”
once a month or so
knowing that familiarity
would only reduce the wonder
and we would start looking for
something new

…as I recall, seeing who could
hold their breath the longest!
became the next challenge
…something on the far side of three minutes the limit

then other curious contests
chasing from the early morning lake
all the way to the bath house
hoping to either be unobserved or observed
however our particular youthful bent took us

they were summers of such invention
almost fifty years past now
and forgotten except in the odd night’s dream
of lost youth and the on set of regret
of old men past their impractical childhood

still burdened
by the long last wish
to do it all again.

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