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That earth itself is heaven is the prominent theme of "Falling," which tells of a flight attendant--a servant, a functionary--who becomes a goddess as she falls from an airplane and strikes the ground, in which she becomes embedded. The theme of the natural heaven is reinforced by descriptions of the spiritual effects on farmers and others who observe the woman during and after her fall.

In "Falling," Dickey reverses the usual spiritual implications of the fall metaphor, thus suggesting, as I have indicated, that earth is the real heaven. The woman's fall is described as a transitional stage between spiritual blindness and illumination, a movement from death-in-life to fully realized life, even from sexual impotence to sexual power: as she descends "in the overwhelming middle of things," she removes her clothes, becoming more primitive, more natural, naked like an animal; she watches "her country lose its evoked master shape" and "get back its houses and peoples"; she becomes "the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas," causing farm girls to feel "the goddess in them struggle and rise" and causing widowers and boys to feet the stirrings of sexual desire. The woman's fall constitutes "her brief goddess / State," this brevity suggestive of the individual's role in the eternal round of life and death.

Her heavenly power is most forcefully manifested, however, after she has struck the ground, becoming part of the earth, as it were. Now the earth-goddess, mother earth, the woman transforms those who come near her body. The farmers in the area "fall" into the natural heaven when they "walk like falling toward the far waters / Of life ... toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms / Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands. . . ." In fact, everyone who finds the woman embedded in the earth experiences spiritual renewal: "All those who find her," the speaker says, "remember / That something broke in them as well . . ."; as a result, they "began to live and die more." Presumably, the "meaning" derived by the people is their new understanding of their place in nature and in the processes of life and death, "flowering" and "harvest." This understanding then allows them to both live and die more fully, like the predators and prey in "The Heaven of Animals," with acceptance and compliance. They now know that they and nature are one. As the woman's last words, "AH, GOD," indicate, the "fall" from servitude in civilization's machine to nature leads us to deity.