? SLAB | Sound & Literary Art Book

Issue 6

Poetry

James Valvis

Day Out At Deception Falls


I stand at Deception Falls, away from the falls a ways
and down the path, where water smashes a flat wall,
explodes into white foam, and hurries off 90 degrees,
water so fast if you touch it your hand will fly away
though the water looks no quicker than a casual creek.
Until it hits that rock, of course, and forms the foam.
This is the deception in Deception Falls, we were told.
I lean against the rail with my wife and my daughter,
thinking what it would be like to fall in, catch
in the current, not be able to swim, just tumble,
and go hurtling toward the wall, collide with the rock,
see my limp body somersault in the other direction,
head and limbs flailing, as a streak of blood is washed
by the loud river-surf.

This is supposed to be a day out,
a sweet moment with family we’ll talk about someday,
not a vision of suicide or possibly murder as a crowd
gathers around like human vultures in my imagination
to ask my wife and my daughter what they think of me
foolishly jumping into the raging current or perhaps
maybe I was pushed—and what about that argument
in the car, Mrs. Valvis, about James getting the banana
with the most brown spots, was that what made you kill?
It all comes at me like a pulp story.

It’s been the same
everywhere we’ve gone. In D.C. I see me plummeting
down the elevator shaft at the Washington Memorial,
though I’m not even sure that’s physically possible.
In New Orleans someone somehow traps me in a casket
as flood waters rise to drag the bones of the dead to sea.
I’m buried in the caves of California, hanged in Mexico.
I get crushed in Disney World and at the San Diego Zoo
there’s a place you can bring your unloved loved ones
to feed to the animals. In Denton Texas I’m abandoned
in the hotel room without clothes and without money.
Even at home, bending over an oven, I wonder whether
I will be shoved inside like the witch who held hostage
Hansel and Gretel.

Back at Deception Falls we move away,
step off the platform that looks over the raging river,
and hike down the path where the pine trees grow thicker.
I’m still alive, still on dry land with my lovely family,
not bloody decomposing fish food heading to the Pacific.
As quickly as the morbid thoughts come, they leave—
after all, why would anyone want to kill a guy like me?—
and I’m back to having an afternoon like anyone else.
My little girl sings “Home on the Range” for the 70th time,
and my wife is worried her shoes might not be the best kind
for this type of terrain, and even my thoughts are now normal,
free of everything but the next step, the clean green air,
and my petty plot to seize the yellowest banana next time.