[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.
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.
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
So what now
You old cow
(Note to self:
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).