FALLING | Larry Oakner


The first fall I remember 

a kid at a playground asked me if I wanted The Whip while I was hanging

from the swinging rings, grabbing my ankles he snapped my body

Trapezing me over the sandbox where I landed

upside down on my bent neck

        He could have broken my spine.


Later I fell in front of Penn Station running for a train in the rain

My legs slid out from under me and I skidded on my shoulder

Along a slick wet grate while crowds passed around me

Checking my clothes for tears, my ribs for pain 

        A young Black guy stopped and asked, “Are you all right, Father?”


Last year while walking in Puerto Vallarta along the River Quale

A bunch of boys were knocking around a soccer ball that rolled in my path

Kicking it back to them my balance went off and I spun around, hit the ground

Just missing the little shop tables, rolling away with only a scratch

        And I jumped up like a gymnast arms raised in victory.


My grandfather whom I never met moved West 

Met with financial reversals that tipped him over to the dark side of his life

So he jumped off a building in downtown LA, falling three floors to the sidewalk

Head trauma the death certificate said

        I wonder how it felt to fall on purpose?



Larry Oakner’s poems have appeared recently in Tricycle: Buddhist News, PROVOKR.com, The Shambhala Times, The Jewish Literary Review, Lost Coast Review, Home Planet News, and Mystic Nebula. Earlier, his work appeared in Mobius, Long Island Quarterly, CCAR Journal, Jewish Spectator, Kerem, SPSM&H, and MARILYN.  He is also the author of a chapbook, Sitting Still, and his essays on poets Jack Spicer and William Carlos Williams appeared in Manroot and Thoth: Graduate Studies in English (Syracuse University). Oakner has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from UCLA, and works as a branding consultant in New York City.