How to Exit an Aircraft While in Flight
Don't worry if you fall asleep,
You won't be left in the aircraft by mistake.
Wake up at the camouflage-faced jumpmaster's first time
Now, you are about to earn those jump wings.
Listen as you casually swallow your fear.
Notice the green and black beads of sweat on the shiny faces.
Ten minutes before jump time.
Do what the jumpmaster says.
Inboard and outboard personnel stand up.
Hands pounding the chest
Tell you to check equipment.
Check your equipment so you won't lose it.
The jumper in front of you appears a bit queasy,
And looks around for a way out.
When you finally hook up,
You scan to see if other hands are also shaking.
You feel the strain as you connect your snap hook
On the cable by your right shoulder.
Don't forget to insert the safety wire.
Follow those instructions carefully.
Be sure the static line is not around your neck
Or you will lose your head,
But if it's tangled in your harness,
You'll dangle from the door, thumping against the aircraft.
Extend your arm nearest the aircraft,
And shuffle to the door.
Step on the platform at the door
And slap your hands on the outside edges.
Don't look down at the ground,
More than a thousand feet below,
But stare at the horizon,
Waiting for the red light beside you to turn green.
"Go!" shouts the jumpmaster,
Slapping your thigh when the light changes color.
Feebly, you fall out of the door
Into the roar of engines and gusts of wind.
Your pulse is pounding louder than your count.
The opening shock finally makes your knees stop knocking.
You check your canopy and equipment,
Getting oriented in the sudden quiet.
There's barely enough time to enjoy the ride,
With just the flutter of nylon overhead,
As the drone of the aircraft fades away.
First the exit, then the landing, finally the mission.
by Valentin Martinez
... who is a teacher of English as a Second Language and of
bilingual/bicultural creative writing at the University of the
Americas. Some of his poems, stories, and articles have been
published in newspapers and newsletters, and he has a novel in