Gustav Parker Hibbett
High Jump as Flow State
By some accounts, I was an artist
above the crossbar, pure potential.
Coaches from other places would
approach my dad at State, tell him
with that form they’d have me jumping
six, eight inches higher within months
if I went and trained with them,
though it was never possible
for me to quit my life and study
high jump as an altered state of being.
Still, all I cared about for years was
how my body moved over the bar,
my mind’s eye annotating energy
with cartoon physics diagrams,
from run to planted foot to torso,
diverted up and back and over,
devotee to the feeling – diamond
needle in a record’s groove – that
anything worth doing is worth doing
beautifully. Most nights before bed
I’d watch YouTube compilations
of the perfect form, slowed down
so I could see the moment when
the jumpers flipped their heads back:
oftentimes they’d close their eyes
until their legs cleared, the language
of this prayer a special privacy between
the jumper and their own ambitions.
High Jump as Divination
The second-last step is the most
important. There are said to be
those who can tell if someone’s
gonna clear their jump just by watching
the way their body dips, how much
upward force they generate,
the angle of their planted knee.
It’s crucial, make or break:
how you get down governs
how you fly; you either leave
with wings or you stay human,
decided in the moment just before
the moment. You take videos
of yourself, cut them off before
the jump, then scramble them
so you can’t remember which result
each run-up led to. Watch your yellow
jumping shoes hit the mark again
and again, until you blur into a queue
of selves in uniform. A tense flutter
of shoelaces. Halo of dust dislodged,
like a moonwalker. Learn to read
this language like a kind of augur.
You’ll either make it or you won’t.
Gustav Parker Hibbett is a Black poet, essayist, and MFA dropout. Originally from New Mexico, they are currently pursuing a PhD at Trinity College Dublin. They are a 2023 Obsidian Foundation Fellow, and they were recently selected as a runner-up for The Missouri Review’s 2022 Poem of the Year award. Their most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Guernica, fourteen poems, The Stinging Fly, Adroit, Banshee, and elsewhere.
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