all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Sunday, December 07, 2008

ice skating

“Just fall,” she said, and of course, at 13, falling’s easy.
You do it everyday, ballooning embarrassments
in the locker room, in English class, singeing your hair
over the Bunsen burner 6th period, a mispurchased outfit
calling attention to your breastlessness, your too-bony hips,
a school dance dismantling your chances for a boyfriend.
the lack of everything you wish would hurry up and get here.
So when she said it, her stare widening under arched brows,
there was disbelief and impatience in her voice, in the way
she eyed my frame, how she couldn’t understand the difficulty
in allowing this self-induced tumble, a brief horizontal flirtation
on the outside corner of the rink, where there was no one watching,
no one there who would stare at me with their leveling ridicule
as I lay on my knees to get the idea of what falling would feel like.
She didn’t understand my hesitation, didn’t understand why I didn’t
just shove off and go, speed down the lane like the rest of the skaters,
make long wide arcs in time to the Christmas music blasting out
the speakers rink-side, didn’t understand my wobbly comportment,
why I kept looking down but not out, why I insisted on being left
behind while she and her sister glided past like little snow angels,
like mini Olympiads. She couldn’t see the lock of my ankles
against the skates, didn’t know the heat of my back at the inside of my jacket,
my stiff arms, my flighty, fearful heart doing its best to keep me upright.

“Just fall,” she said and I couldn’t do it, not even when she showed
me how, splattering herself comically on the ice, buckling her knees,
stretching her arms flat against the cold wet, not even when it looked
so easy to just give into the rules of gravity, that sweet slip earthward,
a tumble to elicit giggles and revelry and a reason to form an impromptu
snowball to hurl at a younger sister, not even then. Standing rigid
on her right, never too far from the edge, my palms outstretched to
ward off any possible fall, I had never felt so fragile,
so far from safety, ice so slick, a sea of skaters swimming by,
“Just fall,” she said, “so you know how it feels” and instead I thought
about the poem I could write about ice skating, a beautiful poem
about grace and twilight and December and the visible air
coming out in bursts all around, small children squealing their
way around a circle, teenagers holding hands shyly, an old man,
maybe a grandfather, teaching his granddaughter something of his
past, I thought about that poem, and perfection, and the glide
and symmetry of skates, and how white the ice was, and the
mother grip of winter, and the warmth inside afterward, hot
drinks sipped gratefully, all this love intact and pure.
And then, lost in my own impossible dreaming,
I fell.

11 comments:

flutter said...

dreams always make you fall, but sometimes the fall is worth it

Dale said...

Ah, that's wonderful!

ConverseMomma said...

Oh Maya, I tumbled headfirst into the piece in the first lines. I fell in love with it, with you for writing it. You are so gifted. I can not wait to read more.

Genius In Words said...

so beautiful baby, so lovely, thank you.

meredithwinn said...

all i could think was wonderful wonderful and more wonderful.

slouching mom said...

this is lovely, thanks.

LaskiGal said...

And suddenly, all I want to do is fall . . .

dweezila said...

just fall

so, so beautiful. Thank you for letting me see my children without me.

xxx

Maggie, Dammit said...

GORGEOUS.

rak said...

beautifully written, and with so much behind it :)

Anonymous said...

So real...and so much meaning throwm into beautiful words! :)