MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! ! On The Incredibly Subtle Art Of Walking

You’re walking down Princes Street
or across the market square, or
in front of the museum, or
towards the bus or rail station..

and he’s there, with his poster on a stick
and handmedown clothes; and
despite lowering your eyes, he says to you,
‘Do you have Faith…? ’ but of course he means
that other sort… or higher sort…or whatever…
and smart answers will drip off him
like the rain that’s dripping from his mac…

so, no use pointing out that every step
you quickly take in passing him..
is taken in a total faith, unquestioning…

Walking is very, very tricky…if
you never learned… or have to learn again…
you want to move forward: shift your centre of balance
dangerously forward to be off-balance…
counteract that by extending one leg firmly…
now, with that leg as lever, return your centre of balance
through the centre of the body, to your other leg,
which you then extend, repeating the mirror-image
(without prior thought…) of your previous action;
now add to this exquisite balance,
a swerve to left or right to avoid
the oncoming pedestrian who believes
his ego has the right of unswerved way…

Congratulations! You’ve just managed
two steps, in one of the most intricate manoeuvres
a human being has invented, since… since when?
(Of course, you don’t believe in evolution,
Adam walked upright, right…?)

Yes, you have faith, my son… but
try not to think too much about this
as you walk…yet, perhaps
a little wonder, even gratitude
would do no harm… now,
where’s my walking-stick?

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Comments (2)

As a teacher of dance, the most important job I have is to teach people how to walk - and your description of the process is spot on. Try doing it in slow motion - it takes practice, but when the walking is mastered - the dancer is born. I had one student who arrived with only one leg. She refused to use crutches and was one of the most amazing dancers I've met. She had been a gymnast as a child, so her control over her body was pretty amazing. The first time she first entered the danced space, my first thought was ' how am I going to cope with this? ' I still cringe at the remembrance. She taught me heaps. Thanks for the reminder and for the great poem. love, Allie ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I hope DJ reads this. I remember being so proud of him when he re-learned how to do what to the rest of us comes naturally. Thank you for making us pause to think and indeed, perhaps, be grateful. t x