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Friday, March 08, 2013

HOW TO WRITE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO JUMPED OFF A CLIFF

by Luisa Villani




                                    poem pulled from Los Angeles local news, March 10, 2010


A live interview has a witness saw her “dangling”
from a tree outstretched from the sheer cliff-face
before she lost her grip.  Did she "jump”
or just merely "slide?"  The different news outlets
can't seem to agree on this point (her predicament),
nor on whether she was attacked by a rapist,
a would-be rapist, or an attacker. 
What is for sure:  she was on top of the cliff
and something happened, and when the paramedics
got to her, she was at the bottom of the cliff,
and the person who was with her at the top of the cliff,
or who confronted her at the top of the cliff,
or whom she encountered at the cliff top,
got away with her wedding band and her SUV (or her car).
How do you write about the woman, the cliff,
the other, the ocean, the sky's nothing embrace,
the woman above, the woman below?
How do you get it right?  Is there a "right"
when faced with loss, a right way to pick
between two losses, pick which one is greater,
which one is lesser, which one you'd rather lose?
If NPR says she "slid" and CBS says she "jumped"
who picked the right verb?  Sure, you can bicker
about the geography of Point Dume, its rocky face,
its sandy top, and you can guess the extent of her struggle,
the intent of his actions, but let's get one thing straight. 
There was a "him," and there was a "her," and in the long
history of him and her, how many times has SHE
actually had a choice?  And how many times has that choice
been between nothingness, and the horror of something?
Remember the days when she was told not to struggle,
to belay nothingness by submitting to something,
and then the later days when she was told
THAT was in fact wrong?  And if you want to forget
about the him and her, and return to the safe ground
of geography, the "just the facts M'am,”
let me ask you this (yes, there is also a me and a you here,
and you know you've already decided which one
you are), consider where you are right now,
if you’re running from this poem,
and if you really had a choice.


Luisa Villani is a former Wallis Annenberg Fellow at The University of Southern California, who currently resides in New Jersey.  She can't seem to land in the middle.