Before I can be released
from the hospital, I must learn
how to use a cane: up—and
the more treacherous—down stairs.
“First, ascending,” the therapist
instructs, as if we’re practicing scales.
“Step up with your healthy leg,
follow with the cane so you don’t
get tangled and tumble down,
then bring up your bad left leg”
He has me practice on the mock stairs
in the hospital’s exercise room.
“Next,” he stops me at the top,
“lower the cane to the step below,
follow with your good leg, and finally
lower your bad one, using the cane
and your right leg to stabilize yourself.”
Cautiously, as if learning to walk,
I follow his instructions, feeling
like a fawn nudged onto its feet
by its doe and ready to run,
which I can’t ever do again:
no longer twelve; no longer immortal.
Still, the pain’s been magicked away,
so I’m grateful to amble my way
through the rest of my life.
Robert Cooperman's latest collection is Little Timothy in Heaven (March Street Press). Just Drive (Brick Road Press) is forthcoming in early 2014.