matt pond PA

July 20, 2017

Battling Nature

Or The Anatomy Of a Fall — or — The Maps of Mistakes — or — The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand.

*** Topic follows discussion.

To stumble, bruise and break. These are the only lusty, dirt-proven powers. Flailing out onto the ground, a mouthful of dust and soil, shock, time stops. And scene.

A formative funnel takes me back — the swirling, human summer scents — cloves, fried dough, metal Bud Light bottles, half-drunk beer orphans on the chewing gum-stained concrete, slumped in the shifting Tilt-A-Whirl shadows — the rock-solid foundation of an imaginary GnR Theme Park.

My demi-rock-gods are graceless beasts, dressed in tawny wrinkled suits, flipping through old New Yorkers and sipping coffee, down in the mental caverns, the mothball mind. (They prefer dim lighting down there. A wistful look away following any Parisian allusion. They still — still — go on and on about Godard, Tom Waits, Charles Bukowski, Anne Sexton and Warhol, as in holes. Sometimes, small clouds of Parliament smoke puff out from my ears.)

I skipped the classes once I uncovered all the multiple-choice patterns. A wizard’s permission slip permanently hanging from my back pocket. If a few choice words are highlighted it’s unnecessary to understand the rest — it’s far better to knowingly laugh at the unknown. As long as you are leaning, the lines don’t need meaning. Leaning on a locker, leaning on the Green Plymouth Fury, leaning on the mottled brick wall of a forgotten Circle K.

I was given a chocolate medal of honor by the esteemed faculty at CliffsNotes Academy. We all attended the commencement, applying the required attire — flip-flops, Polynesian printed jumpsuits and koozies looking for one more beer to fill the emptiness. There was a paperback drum circle at the reception and, later, a hardcover bonfire. Because as everyone knows, books are for jail.

Here. Out beyond the fake university gates. Here, meaning is in the ear, eye, nose and throat of the beholder. Whatever gets caught in the cochlea and blown out the gullet is as good as gold.

(I wake up on a raft in the middle of a pond. It was all one of Bill Murray’s many electronic daydreams.)

The left toe was crushed at Onteora Lake, the right hand, hip, side cut and contused at Awosting. These things are true. I’m not lengthening the tale. There was a moment of crawling in each of these episodes. Crash, blood, swelling, swear. It’s the unavoidable reality of amateur earth hurdlers.

When I was young, I didn’t care. Bleeding and breaking were the acceptable risks attributed to almost any activity. But I’m running out of room for scars. And I don’t want to convince you that I’m not scared anymore. Because I’m here — and though I’m physically prepared for most apocalyptic unrealities, I’m afraid. (Basements, moths, cops, electrified microphones, hugs.)

1. Burlington, Vermont. Late summer. The original teenage donkey takes center stage, stabbing the kitchen knife into a bedroom wall. (If truth be told, the motivation was merely to impress a couple of fine ladies with a little redneck recklessness, the recklessness that always outraces desire.) The hand slides down the knife the the wall, gasp. The actor exits stage left, past the rigging, through makeup as feathered costumes fly, dashing out the side door and all the way to the emergency room. Embarrassed, terrified, tendon-less in two fingers. Months of recovery after surgery, zigzag stitches and a hand that half works. Shots of tequila simultaneously resurrect and erase the sharp, shooting pain.

2. Annandale-on-Hudson. Early spring. In the hazy distance, a frisbee falls in the grass below Eastern Bloc era dormitories. A gangly, long-haired kid leaps from the second floor ledge, plants the landing with his palms in a field of glass and throws a bloodied frisbee back to his best friend (who would later marry the bleeding bohemian’s future ex-girlfriend). Twenty stitches from a couple part-time comedians at Northern Dutchess Hospital. “So you cut your hand playing frisbee?”

3. Lake Awosting, Last week. At seven and half miles into a fun run, heavy legs get heavier and heavier. Weak vision, the intense contrast of sunblast and darkening boughs on the shadowiest parts of the trail. A rock hit by the right toe at a good clip, into a sprawl out against the stones and dirt. Hand and hip are bleeding. After a pat-down, nothing appears to be broken. Further, around the corner there’s an unshattered water-bottle full of wine, almonds, figs and an insane view. Another day, another scar, another sweet swallow of wine.