Nothing out of the ordinary

We were not skydivers in the 1990s, I did not wear a cream crocheted bikini top, I was not in
love for the first time, we didn’t talk quietly amongst ourselves in large crowds about sex and
its dramas, we did not drink piss-weak beer, we did not pay $16 a jump and there was never a
DC-3 or a perfect sunset through its window, we never fell through snow.

We didn’t think we owned the tiny piece of sky above the grass and baseball field separated
by the hangar where we laid out our parachutes and packed them into nifty rigs, like there
was no runway, no windsock, no caravans, and looking down from 12,000 ft we didn’t
resemble ants.

We didn’t burn the old car and breathe it in for days and my clothes never smelled of bonfire,
we didn’t wake up to the stink of jet fuel or the sound of dual propellers or the natural push
toward blue sky, and I never kissed my boyfriend on the mattress on the floor of his gutted
pink bus.

When it rained and there was no way we’d lift that plane we did not pile into a van and head
to the cinema for Pulp Fiction then quote from it for months: Which parachute is it, my
friend? — It’s the one that says Bad Motherfucker.

We would never have said peregrine falcons were cool and the moon did not move into its
nearest position to the Earth, which is not called perigee, the two words are not similar, I was
not so obsessed with Scully and Mulder that I thought I saw a UFO on my first night jump.

I do not think my skydiving days were my salad days, vegetarianism was not a part of my life
back then, I don’t know how to read clouds and I don’t understand what split second means,
you can’t call me fragile, I don’t shake my head, I don’t remember any of it, and when I think
of all the skydivers who smiled at me in freefall it’s not you I miss most.

We didn’t eat two-minute noodles in between loads, nobody got sunburnt or laid, there
weren’t wildfires anywhere in the world, I did not acquire mystery bruises, I did not smoke Camel Lights, we never danced to the Beastie Boys on the table and we always talked about
the planet.

We did not wear Teva sandals and I do not have a photo proving the point and it would not
look amazing in black and white, blown-up and hung on my living room wall and I never felt
sorry for the local farmers who had to listen to Cessna-climbs, canopy-snaps, us yahooing
and their dogs barking at every bit of it all weekend long.

I almost never smashed into the ground, not when I jumped, and once I didn’t pull too low
and there was no sense of ground rush and in fact I’ve completely forgotten about it so I
almost didn’t write this poem, but then I thought none of us deserved it, nothing
extraordinary happened, I mean no-one even died.

Heather Taylor-Johnson

Heather Taylor-Johnson lives and writes on Kaurna land near Port Adelaide. Her sixth book of poetry is Alternative Hollywood Ending, and she is the editor of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. Recent shortlistings include the Red Room Poetry Fellowship and ABR’s Calibre Prize. Her novel Jean Harley was Here was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Fiction, and she’s the 2022 winner of Island’s Nonfiction Prize. She’s an honorary title holder at the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.

More by Heather Taylor-Johnson ›

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