Eleanor Wilner

Bailing Out-A Poem for the 1970s

Whose woods these are I think I know ...

The landings had gone wrong; white silk,
like shrouds, covered the woods.
The trees had trapped the flimsy fabric
in their web—everywhere the harnessed bodies
hung—helpless, treading air
like water.
We thought to float down
easily—a simple thing
like coming home: feet first,
a welcome from the waiting fields,
a gentle fall in clover.

We hadn't counted on this
wilderness, the gusts of wind
that took us over; we were surprised
by the tenacity of branching wood,
its reach, and how impenetrable
the place we left, and thought we knew,
could be.
Sometimes now, as we sway, unwilling
pendulums that mark the time,
we still can dream
someone will come and cut us down.
There is nothing here but words, the calls
we try the dark with—hoping for a human
ear, response, a rescue party.
But all we hear is other
voices like our own, other bodies
tangled in the lines,
the repetition of a cry from every tree:

I can't help you, help me.
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