Bridal March, Part I: Scything

Was it love at first sight?
The process of marriage began
long before there ever was
a sighting. Before falling
into love, there simply was

falling. And that did not
require his participation,
it happened before I was even
aware of his existence. Rare
Thursday afternoon and off

of work after having worked
three double shifts already,
and out by myself in the sand
and sandstone scrub-land up
north of the city, areas now

no doubt lined with residential
communities, paved streets
named after displaced cacti,
stucco pink adobe. But then,
it was empty, at least most so,

of humans. Roadrunner on
occasion, rattler, coyote.
Tiny pointy prints of a herd
of javelina. Empty. And a day
off. And a bit of flippancy,

of arrogance. Of course I had
my pack and climbing rope. But
the face was only twenty-five
feet, maybe thirty, not more
surely, and there was a bit

of angle to it, and many narrow
crevices that promised holds
for hands and feet. It seemed
a small thing, not worth
breaking in, wasting a brand-

new fifty-foot hank of roping.
And it was the desert, glaring
bright and I too was shiny,
alone among the wild things
in a moment of invincibility.

I began to climb, finding
hand- and foot-holds plenty,
climbing slowly. Too slow.
The sky began to darken
suddenly, and fat droplets

began to hit my back, my
pack, my hat. Two-thirds
of the way up the face, so
I continued, but the going
was not so easy, the crevices

were getting wet, the hand-
holds slick. I slipped
and felt light and heavy
all at once, curled and got
tucked just in time before

I hit. Landed on my shoulder
mostly. Dislocated instantly,
no question. Rolled and came
half up onto my feet. Barrel
cactus hook-thorn like an

upholstery needle through
the side of my knee. And fifty
feet of unused rope still in
the pack upon my back. Stood
up all the way. Eventually.

Then packed my way back out
to where I’d left my pick-up,
limping. Drove in the right
lane slowly with the flashers
on all the way back into town

and down to a orthopedic
surgery complex complete with
office, x-ray, physical therapy
facilities. I walked in torn
up and bloodied, asked about

the possibility of a work-in
appointment. This was a long
time ago, not like it is now…
and the doctor saw me. Cut
off my shirt with shears, gave

me a mouth-guard to bite down
on, shoved the shoulder back
in place, then sent me down
the hall for x-rays, then back
in after to discuss. Beyond

cracked ribs, not much. Doctor
asked what happened to me, and
I told him honestly, including
where it hurt worst: that
would be my ego, probably.

But if not for that falling, cutting
down of ego, scything and subsequent
binding of the middle of my body, it’s
possible, even probable I’d still
be spending all my off-days out,

climbing hiking sleeping all alone.


after Dave Bonta’s “Little Wedding Song

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