NIGHT SWIMMING

by JOHN R. KILLACKY

 

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By day, I am an arts warrior, public servant, heroic crip. Open, responsive, cocksure, ambitious—I seize the public gaze as a bully pulpit. Offstage finds me enslaved by quivering muscles contorting my stride.

After surgery, my swollen spine shut down. Gurus and saints abounded, but no roses from above. Paralyzed weeks turned into monthsa flicker, a twitch, a wave; sitting to standing, six steps to go home, with wheelchair, ankle brace, and cane.

Gestures repeat to imprint; but gravity intervenes. Syncopated embellishments focus spatial awareness; though alignment remains akimbo. With little sensation, each footstep is defiant. Only in the pool can I run with the ponies again.

Eight years nowI still fixate on atrophy, ignoring progress. Balancing rehab and recovery, clinging to a reconnecting, physical therapy and pharmaceuticals combat lost kinesis, encouraging hope.

Night murmurs locate points of pleasure: behind the left knee, above the nipple. I crawl inside the softness, relishing the incandescent kundalini rush absent pain. Legs lie quiet, the burning subsides. Stillness embraces me.

In the extra room (that we do not have), I pliť and pirouette with dramatic abandon, leaving behind my imploded, twisted carcass. The tumor does not return. My pelvis aligns. Depression dissipates. Then I awake.

Violent spasms hurl me out of body. Heart and breath stop. I stare down at my contorted gaping hole of a mouth and rehearse death, porous and seductive. Floating in this space between, I no longer fear dying, only waiting.

Stolen shadows hover. It seems easy (one breath away), but is so hard to surrender into the void, although I am well practiced, writing libretti for lost lives in vigils through the night and surviving my own demise, time and again.

Larry carries me back once more through his weight, touch, and voice. Unfettered love makes the journey familiar and secure. No past, no future, just present. Grasping for now, I pray for clear seeing, acceptance without judgment.

Morning comes. I amble toward the light.

© 2005 John R. Killacky


 

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John R. Killacky co-edited with BENT editor Bob Guter the anthology "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," winner of a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. Killacky recently moderated an on-line discussion with The Non-Traditional Casting Project entitled "Queering the Crip," with Terry Galloway, Raymond Luczak, Judy Smith, and Greg Walloch.

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/January 2005