|Apr/May 2004 • Poetry
Bounding downward, laughing. For her each step is waist high, each a heroic effort in itself. To tackle their sum is a feat of skill and courage she can barely conceive. One wrong step and she would be headlong, the banister flying by her like a reprimand. "Be careful," her mother always admonishes. "Careful." And she is. Putting one small foot in front of the other, feeling the drop in her stomach as she steps down. She's not lumbering backward, gripping the carpet as is her way. Not even holding the banister. She's walking forward. An adventurer. Smiling at the storm. A mountain climber. Naked in the wind. A big girl. Before she is aware, it happens. She loses purchase with one foot, and the hardwood pool at the bottom is suddenly flying toward her. The second she realizes what's happening, the moment she anticipates the pain waiting for her at the landing, something in her snaps into sharper focus. She recedes from her own eyes. A switch is blown, bringing the world into new alignment. She's child and adult and something larger. She feels how her body fits into the air, the house, the world. She breathes in the place where she sits inside her mother, her brother and sister, fingers the hole she would leave should she be rendered from there. She tastes the rust of her absence from the life of everyone she will ever meet. She fits as a puzzle piece. She fits, and in the pure lightness of fitting the fall, turns into floating. The floating is sailing on certainty. The falling is done in slow motion. It brings her softly to the landing. It sets her down at the bottom of the stairs, painless and upright, with a marvel that fades the moment it's born. As she's walking away toward the warmth of her mother's voice in the kitchen, she's already forgetting. She's forgetting the puzzle, the fit, the moment of anticipation turning to understanding. The floating. The sailing on certainty is wrapping itself in the blinding gauze that blurs the line between memory and dream.