Rebecca Fish Ewan

[Nonfiction]  Hurt Walker

A few years ago, I decided to turn my attention to walking. I taught a course on it. Went to Vienna to chat about it with other people talking about walking. We sat down for most of these conversations. I made my first walking zine, collected other people’s words and images, stories of feet moving, legs swinging, how to avoid getting run down by cars. I’ve always loved to move my body forward, up and over hills, around trees, along sidewalks, down alleyways, through a park or cemetery. Walking has always been a favorite way to get to know a place.




To walk means to rock

To and fro

Like a ship at sea

That was me




I don’t have an answer to the question about what to do when the body betrays you. How not to become consumed in the search for a cure that may not exist. I can tell you that turmeric doesn’t seem to do a thing. I wonder if I just need to believe it would. Faith has always tripped me up. The lack of it. Or how its presence stands in the way of a quick fix. Of course, I think about drinking, even after all these years. Twenty-eight in January. If my addiction was a baby born on my first sober day, it would be applying to graduate school by now.




To walk, a body needs to swing both arms, both legs, with pendulous motions

Like surge in the ocean

Back and forth

Back and forth

One step at a time


To walk, a body can’t hurt too much


I think about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear so much. Still, to not feel pain would be a kind of death for me. What the fuck does that mean? It means I don’t want to live in pain, but I don’t want to die either. It means pain is part of who I am, so to find relief might leave me wondering what now?




When I was a child of four

I could walk out my front door

My mother somewhere inside

Tending to whatever wasn’t me

These walks I took beside a creek

Barefoot and alone

What I recall is not of being ignored

But of liberty


I should point out that right now I’m rereading Common Sense by Thomas Paine

This is how obsessed with pain I am.

Drawn in by his name

Now his language infiltrates my head

As I write of thinking of being dead

While remembering my feet

Paddling in the wet sand

As possibly the last time I knew a life

That didn’t hurt.




When I sit for too long, my ears fill up with fluid, so much I can hear my heart beat against my eardrums. This doesn’t hurt, even though the word derives from striking a blow. Hurt is a word in motion—to stumble, bump into, charge against, rush, crash, knock together, ram, strike, collide with, dash against, its etymology.


It hurts to walk.

It hurts to remember.

It hurts to bend over to pick up a dog bowl.

Sadness hurts.

I’m a snack platter of ailments of body and mind.

Like they aren’t attached at the neck

That hurts too.




I love physics. How it explains everything in motion.




My favorite teacher in high school told us again and again that this was all we really ever needed to know.


Force is equal to mass times acceleration.


Force comes from power, violence, compulsion and some friendly interpretations like courage. Mass can mean many things, but I choose lump. Acceleration is just a long word for speed.


So, courage is a quick lump.


This is all ye need know.




Except this:

In my heart of hearts, in my bones

Even in my soul perhaps

I believe pain is for pussies


I’ve lived my life by this edict

And now my body

My companion through it all

Makes living hurt too much to ignore


My husband would call this Irish luck

To hurt so much I can finally see

How grand life was

When there was no hurt


What good fortune

If I were Irish

But my DNA places me

In that nether region

Between privilege and true hurt


This is becoming another essay

About identity and voice

How I’m finally finding mine

Too late to make much use of it


Which reminds me of another edict:

Whining is for babies


They have no grasp of language beyond the cry

Not I

So what now

You old cow


(Note to self:

Next time

End on a high note

To inspire hope)


Rebecca Fish Ewan is a poet/cartoonist/writer & founder of Plankton Press, where small is big enough. Her hybrid-form work appears in Brevity, Punctuate, Under the Gum Tree, Mutha, and Hip Mama. She makes zines & teaches landscape architecture at ASU, her MFA home. Her current WIP includes a book on drawing for writers & a chapbook of watercolors and words on water. She has two creative nonfiction books: A Land Between (2000) and a new cartoon/verse memoir, By the Forces of Gravity (2018).


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