Jennifer Bullis

How to Walk Like a Quadruped
by Jennifer Bullis

Post horse-kick

to the knee, post-election, I still take to the trail on foot.

An hour a day in the woods,

two miles tops, is as far as my bad leg goes.

After a while,

the good leg goes, too, from carrying the extra load.

When you inject

trauma into a system, more trauma spins off, ripples out.

Another problem

with my uneven motion is its downwardly kinetic potential.

On hills, on stairs.

Seemingly small sidewalk cracks. Roots across the path.

The doctor says I have, beneath the bruising,

chondromalacia of the patella, which apparently is Latin for the cartilage

of my kneecap bears me considerable ill will.

Ice helps, plus rest, patience, and retraining my legs

to walk straighter.

If physical therapy works, I’ll resume longer hikes.

If it doesn’t, my knees

will stay mean as my old, sore horse. But the mind, that knapsack

of jumbled dread

and resistance, needs its wanderings. The bipedal walk is a two-beat gait,

the arm-swing a vestige,

a memory of archaic forefeet’s contact with the ground.

To move like a quadruped,

you call that shadow-beat back into being. Add hiking poles:

add two spindly steps to each stride.

I read in Ada Limón’s “Downhearted” that “the heart wants / her horses back.”

Mine sure does. I read

that the new president mocks, among others, the disabled.

What would he say

about me with my dual-cane propulsion system, boosting the step

of whichever leg hurts worse?

Would he put me down like an old, sore horse? My horse

sure wants her heart back,

stilled as it is of its swagger and spooking, its racing and rage.

Another problem

with my uneven thinking is its downwardly kinetic potential.

But I read that a little kindness

goes a long way. When you inject compassion into a system,

more compassion spins off, ripples out.

I like that, ponder gentleness as pushback. What is the motion

of shoreline against the surf?

Of knee against a hoof? To move like a quadruped, you call

that shadow-muscle into being.

Add four-leggedness, add two kind deeds to counter each blow.

Memory of contact with the ground.

Hours a day in the woods. As far as my old, mean, sore heart can go.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 21, Issue 2.

Jennifer BullisJennifer Bullis grew up in Reno, earned a Ph.D. in English at UC Davis, and taught college writing and literature in Bellingham, Washington, for fourteen years. Her first collection of poems, Impossible Lessons, was published by MoonPath Press in 2013.

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