She likes to take a running leap
off the twenty-foot wall, into the sandbox—
land on her ass, roll like an insect
and then crawl up the ladder to the wall again.
She says it's the most fun,
the midair uncertainty—then the feeling
of relief as body connects with earth.
One day, she takes her best friend to the wall.
Her friend withholds her boldness
with aristocratic contempt.
She secretly finds the girl's eagerness
to bolt into the void to be a sign
that she is not as smart as she likes to think.
The friend will never jump,
not in a month, or a year.
The girl says it's the easiest thing,
and nothing bad could possibly happen—
and to prove it, she'll take one more leap
to show her friend how it should be done.
"Nothing bad can happen!" she repeats
and she catapults into mid-air,
cheerfully flings caution skyward like confetti
and lands with her kneecaps in her face.
Blood spills into the hard sand
from a deep gash above her left eye.
The girl laughs, admits to being wrong,
and then bursts into tears.
It's going to be a long walk home;
still early morning, and the girl's parents
are sleeping off their hangovers.
Won't they be surprised when they awaken
to see their daughter, standing above them
with a wet paper towel over her face
delicately splashed with diluted blood.
There will be a long trip to the emergency room
before they've even had their morning coffee.
The girl will sit under fluorescent lighting
while the surgeon reattaches her flesh
with deft, indifferent needle strokes,
like an Amish grandmother sewing an apron.
She's stoic now, refusing to cry
because her parents expect her to be brave
and will surely punish her if she isn't.
Her friend sits beside her,
vowing never to take such chances,
glad that she never left the ground
but the girl, behind her closed eyes
flinches from the needle's prodding,
and dreams of the next time she will jump.