Laws of Motion

Christopher Spaide

The trip from noun to verb will hurt: I’ve found a door
that doors you with the force to scrape you clean off a bike
and force you down on a floor that flat-out floors you—that
might teach you a thing or two about inertia, the conversion
of friction to florid archipelagoes of roadburn, the conservation
of all your body’s bones, despite themselves. I’ve found as well

that melon, meaning “skull,” suffices as a figure
for its ripeness, skin-deep and startling, but the noun I’ve met
that strikes best how the street’s calloused gravel greets
then grates down a stiff instinctual arm, how graciously the ground
grinds the hand’s cushioned heel down to dead and reddened grains,
is meat. Mass has liabilities: each pound pounds

and is pounded exponentially back, just you wait and see
each ounce’s latency for a pinball’s chance motions:
across existence’s inclined plane and down the open drain:
the scoreboard sounds each hit, the ticker PAIN compounds
by someone’s laws, to someone’s loss. I never even saw you coming

never came into question, and never happier to Pretend
this never happened
we never wrote up the accident
since what was there to report? His foreign policy of apology?
A windfall weathered with dents, soft spots, a peel
of polished skin, a pall of beveled flesh, and then the apple
flew back to its branch? Apply a firm palm’s pressure,

that’s it, the heart is cored. When will I forget how Before shifted
to After: same apparatus, higher gear, Sheerest Fancy to Near
(or Nearer) Death? Before, I could have been your classic circus bear:
unbalancing my unicycle, circling the dense dance
of elephants crinkling their ears, in lazy one-track cadence
with the big top’s decadence, cadenza to a heart-arresting show . . .

After? Prostrate, kissing-distance from chapped blacktop, center
of an emergent cyclorama of realizing shapes and toiling
sirens: above, stalled motorcades house their combustion
like grenades, while behind my back a noon sun’s runniness
pours over the scene and outlines a body with white.
Just my luck. Is luck just? Still trying to adjust to being stuck

on that day the way popcorn kernels barnacle to theater seats
and don’t they always screen the same damn reel: Your Trauma:
A True Melodrama
. It’s development hell, no release
date in sight—we can revisit the credits, recast relived
as reviled, but what cut or edit could ever deliver
relieved, an I reclining back in silence? Not violence,

no one’s malevolence, but momentum volleyed me aloft.
How long was I hung in that moment of um, the whole world strung
over my head? Exercise: diagram this fragment, graph nouns
to knowns, and underline the flying object even now
unidentified. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an obscene
gesture, a stork delivery the planet rejected and marked

RETURN TO SENDER! No miracle, God’s product placement,
just mere luck set me down on the line where my body broke
the traffic’s fluency and let me stand up in a red crossing:
STET. Verb reverts to noun but sounds reverberations
here and now—not my momentary exaltation
but the first exhalation the earth breathed back, the next, the next, the next.