out of cars when we’re three –
when the excitement to climb down ourselves
puts our center of gravity in front of our skill level,
our little forehead in front of our feet,
out of windows in Moscow
for talking trash about Putin –
and that’s why we don’t live in Moscow,
off a bicycle at least once –
it’s a rite of passage impossible to avoid.
We fall from grace no matter how hard we try,
from pedestals too high – elevated by another’s need.
We fall into the wrong crowd when our parents aren’t looking.
We fall out of favor, out of fashion,
or all over ourselves to prove a point.
We fall in love
and out again;
we fall apart
and start again.
We might fall clipping a sandal toe on the edge of a sidewalk buckled from the heat
or by slipping on black ice lying in wait under a dusting of snow,
or we could lose our balance stubbing a tree root along the path –
a full-frontal faceplant.
Lots of bleeding, but
by grace, the very same we fell from,
nothing breaks –
not a tooth, not a nose, not a lens in our brand-new designer glasses,
except our confidence.
Blood pouring from our nose into our hands,
dripping off our chin where a flap of skin now dangles,
proceeds down the forearms in search of an elbow.
We’re exercising every blood-stopping skill
learned over years of practice –
as a kid, with our children,
for an aging parent unexpectedly fainting in the kitchen.
Finally, the last drop falls.
We look as if we’ve just torn open a small animal
with our bare hands
and feasted on its heart for breakfast.
Disbelief gathers up presence of mind –
we get up.
Sheer determination steps in to escort us
back to the car.
We don’t give a second thought to what’s happened
to our confidence
left lying in blood-soaked dirt
no ceremony, not even a good-bye.
Life is full of falling.
water falls over a cliff.
But unlike snowflakes,
or leaves in autumn,
or waterfalls diving into pools far below,
we’re propelled by an intrepid resolve
to get back up.
Falling off your bike at seven is a temporary setback
on the road to mastering balance on ever bigger bikes.
Falling face first at seventy is a turning point – a switchback
where independence takes on hiking poles
and Life Alerts dangling around our necks.
Ask the once free-flying, twirling snowflake how she feels
ending her journey face-first in what will likely become a nestled snowdrift
of snowflake friends
with the only confidence they have left
they’ll never twirl like that again.