Tales of the Fall

(A Tragicomedy in Five Cracks)

 Essay by Ann Gold 


Sudden reduction to a nearly immobilized body with infantile needs (“fill my water bottle please”) has played some tricks on my brain and its production of words, phrases, actions. I repeat things rhythmically out loud. I generally stomp three times with my good leg before standing, as if it were a magical requirement. Nothing here is polished, nor will it be, but I share selected scattered scraps from my sort-of journal sort-of venting outlet . . . . 

1. Potbound 

Pot bound 

In cracking clay
Starved for nutrients starved for light
roots cramped inter-tangled clogged, feeding on their own disgusting wormy pallid essence,
Not enough dirt
Not enough water
Not enough space
Not enough air 

House bound
rain and clouds
striding swimming
vital motion limbs sensations
seasons skies scents
sucking stretching photosynthesis
sunshine vitamin
All so firmly out of reach
Had I a ‘grasper’ in my weak old arthritic hands
Even so I could not pinch hold of nature wind or speed and fetch it to my lap 

2. Weightbearing 

Unbidden meaningless mantra curls off my tongue,
like a ribbon,
magical power of sound 

I hear a madwoman’s voice,
my altered broken self,
mutters and chants:
weightbearing weightbearing weightbearing 

Asleep I dream I’m walking
Awake I quell prickling fear
Will I limp? Will I hurt? Am I damaged irreparably?
Is there a deep knee pain that will kill me now
Just like it killed my mother
She who fell and fell again
Though in the end it was smoke and flame that took her 

Asleep I dream I’m walking
Awake I hum this chorus, anthem of a promised-land Weightbearing weightbearing weightbearing 

Wheatberry wheatberry wheatberry
Echo-mocks my husband my helpmate my everloving caretaker Weightbearing wheatberry weightbearing wheatberry

3. Timepass 

Doing timepass with a broken bone involves these things: sit daily for 6 weeks in the same goddamn chair
and read 

a book
the NYT
the LRB
the New Yorker
or endlessly my phone
scrolling through others’ lives on skis on beaches on airplanes eating, drinking, smiling, playing 

hop to the toilet piss
clean my teeth twice daily
hop to the table eat
hop to the bed and flat on my back
pump my ankles three times ten
clench my buttocks two times ten
repeat repeat repeat
It used to be I craved the news
To hear while I was cooking, cleaning, folding
Ever busy about the house, the blighted world a big wide context For my constant motion
Bluetoothed through my ears 

Now condemned to inactivity I
Recoil violently
From politics tragedy money monotony
I want only music only fiction
lyrical happy endings, a scarce commodity 

The windchimes he bought a few decades past in Woodstock NY where the remnants of sixties aesthetic endured
at least in myriad forms of hand-crafted commerce
To the tune of those wind gusted windchimes, 

melodic arhythmic wintery clangs, I convalesce.
fracture is hardly disease 

just one fatal misstep, lapsed absentminded half second drop plop boom broken!
systemic nonetheless in puny fearsome ways
calves flake, nails crack; moods shift, tears swallowed the unused foot’s sole so very cold and dry 

Dead rabbits dead souls dead leaves dead skin 

explosive rage
push throw destroy
like people in the movies
tear my hair, a mourning grandmother sanity barely sustained
by means of
deep fucking breaths
as taught by yoga and every kind of therapy core-breathing calm
or maybe just Scream as loud as I can
I did
But it hurts my throat 

4. Snowdrops 

giveup don’tgiveup giveup don’tgiveup giveup don’tgiveup that wretched muttering’s too damn loud
all I want to do is to make a cup of tea
leaning to free my hands with just one leg to stand on wobble fail 

Let’s be grateful for clean hair Let’s be grateful for a 

ride to the corner and back
On a semi sunny afternoon
in the borrowed temporary wheelchair Missing an arm rest 

Down the block I saw snowdrops; they should not be in bloom yet Snowdrops mean the hope of spring Not these 

Hop not hope Hop not hope Hop not hope 

There’s a tiny crack in a tiny bone in a kind of small body in a kind of small life nearing its close 

every joy is also fear which is exactly why I am

ready to die 

5. closed fracture 

Closed fracture of medial condyle of right proximal tibia 

All closed means is
they didn’t have to open up my leg to fix this bone;
by god, it’s fixing itself
And the ortho doctor barely conceals
Her professional disappointment
Surgical skills could fix me up if only I were doing worse
Let it stay closed, enclosed, mending itself, knitting up the crack Now is the bony callus formation stage
God bless the osteoblasts . . . . 

But what about my ruptured life, in this my 77th circle round the sun, Is this simple crack a huge gash,
whether or not the final gash, across my span of years
breeding disability 

can I carry laundry baskets up and down the stairs? can I carry recycling bins out to the street?
can I sit on the floor sorting, reading, revising prose? can I squat to get an iron pan from a low cupboard 

and rise to my feet again holding it?
Can I hunt for the right sweater in the lowest drawer? 


Drip drip drip
going nowhere
raindrops freezing ceaselessly
Descend the glass
each one carrying englobed a core of ice 
Every single morning he hands me a small coffee mug unfathomably delicious drug
round which I warm my hands
Every single night I curl up to sleep with animal gratitude 





Ann Grodzins Gold, Emerita Thomas J. Watson Professor, retired in 2019 from Syracuse University where she taught for twenty-five years in the Departments of Religion and Anthropology.  For the work she did, the books she wrote, the courses she taught, see https://artsandsciences.syracuse.edu/people/faculty/gold-ann-grodzins/  Since her retirement, Ann has devoted much time to the apparently endless project of sorting letters, papers and photographs from her and her family’s predigital past – scanning, filing, discarding, contemplating.  She has also tried hard with mixed results to produce non-academic prose. She volunteers with Ithaca Welcomes Refugees.  She has totally neglected to polish the silver and her garden although increasingly overgrown remains a major source of solace.