“Breaking the Fall” plus two poems by Taylor Mali

Breaking the Fall

At the playground with my son, I hoist him high
into a tree in a game of balance and catastrophe
that one of us knows is not a good idea, but not
the one who falls.

Luckily, he is okay. But only because—
and this sounds worse than what actually happened—
I sort of stick out my foot at the last minute
to break his fall.

That’s not the same thing as saying
I kicked my four-year-old before he hit the ground,
except that it sort of is. Stunned but unhurt
and tearless, he looks up as though asking
for permission to laugh, which we both do
for different reasons.

I broke your fall with my foot! I tell him, regretting it
immediately for the way it will not accurately survive
some future report to Child Protective Services
or my wife.

But all he wants to know, my gorgeous lover of words,
dirt, puddles, and the sky, is why I “broke” his fall at all,
if I know how to fix it, where the pieces are,
and if they have sharp edges. I was already falling,
I can see him thinking. Why not let that stay unbroken?


Most things we say
or think or write, or do
are different ways of pleading,
Look at me! I am special, too.

The Last Revenge

____of the books you chose
to give away in search of a lighter life
sparked by joy

came from the massive box
you put them in, a box too big
for books, so full of joy
it was impossible to lift.

Taylor Mali’s poetry was recently used to introduce a skit on Saturday Night Live starring James McAvoy called “Mr. H.” He is the only four-time National Poetry Slam champion and one of the original poets on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. The author of five collections of poetry and a book of essays on teaching, he is also the inventor of Metaphor Dice, a game that helps writers think more figuratively. Mali’s poems are both accessible and literary, and he was once told he was “just like Billy Collins except even worse!” He lives in Brooklyn, where he is the founding curator of the Page Meets Stage reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club. Follow him on Twitter @TaylorMali and Instagram: taylor_mali.

Image: “Adirondack Canopy” by ©Chuck Miller

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close