The Ecstasy

Black ice was the smoothest anyone could skate on—

Black ice was the smoothest
anyone could skate on—

blade tips sending stray cracks

shooting halfway across
the pond, folks arguing over

how thick the surface

needed to be—two inches, four—
before everyone skated off

to their parked cars, that bliss

of finally being left alone
to etch your signature

onto ice and make the pond

your own—imagine
how free you felt to get beyond

cell service, Wifi, how little

you knew when you fell through—
skates pulling you down

like cement shoes

as you clawed your way
back up—the jagged

surface breaking apart

in your hands each time
you tried, inducing 

fresh panic each time

you failed—save
your breath, your life 

reduced to this

one thing and one thing
only—no time 

for pity or prayer

when no one’s coming
and what was the question

you couldn’t answer

eight feet down
as you flung yourself up and over

onto a shelf of ice

like a blind Hail Mary
in the grim seconds of a final quarter

emptied of all its fans— 

TIMOTHY LIU is cooling his academic jets. He will start up again in the Fall when he joins the faculty at SUNY New Paltz. In the meantime he’ll be mostly staying put. Or driving around. Or giving I-Ching and tarot readings at the Omega Institute.

If you enjoyed this poem, check out Timothy Liu’s latest book, Let it Ride, out now from Saturnalia Books.

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