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FALLING       FAILING

On the occasion of fracturing my lower arm

I fall like clockwork

three or four times a year,

shoulder jolt and palm sting.

I broke a hip;

nearly bit through my tongue

(mouth inflating with blood);

opened a cranial bleed on black ice.

Ma’am are you all right?

I take their hands. I smile and

repeat, I’m okay. Smile. Nice

old falling down woman.

Let me just hold your

hand, I say, trying to reach my feet.

At every step I talk to my feet,

“Up,” and again “Up,” I say.

Place the heel down first

like that tai chi cat

taking her walk while

the next fall waits

in the wings.

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FALLING       FAILING

The slip of my tongue:

Occasionally, I call the man “she” by mistake. Only once or twice a year, but it is awful. It is public. I thought when I understood this mistake caused him pain, I could do nothing but stop, rather than cause pain to someone I care for, someone who is brave, someone in my innermost community.

But then I do it again.

I could say, but he sometimes flicks his hair in that way. I could say, but he wears that feathery boa. I could say…. but in this situation I am not the one to say. he is. The shifting, uneven edge can enlarge, become a terrain. The fluid edge between the monoliths of “male” and “female” an unmapped footpath.

Yes, the feathery boas, draping the throat, their feather air something to breathe instead of things as they are, sometimes pulled up to beautiful blue eyes, stubborn fortress against mistakes.

The fragile, undefined terrain of speaking: two people; what you do not know. What you do not know you do not know. The yawning edge between getting it wrong and wanting to get it right.

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photos: trip to Ireland, 2007

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