Ann E. Wallace


Listen to Audio Version.

Look how skinny you are,
She cinches up the harness
so it no longer merely haloes my waist but holds it snug
Secures the leg straps and moves up my torso

Oh but the last person was taller,
She releases more slack
so the carabiners hook loosely at my shoulders
Small does not feel like an advantage

I want bulk, heft
to hold me in place
The platform moves back, then forth
I stare at the little cloud in front of me

A silly cloud emblazoned on the fabric surround
Does this blue sky really fool anyone?
Does it have the power to transport?
Good intentions, but off the mark

My left thigh tenses
The floor moves below me,
the cloud pulls away, returns
My toes grip the floor

Desperate to hold steady, to not fall
back and away
I tilt back on my heels
Forward on my toes

I need weight
to maintain presence
My head aches, my focus taxed
I direct my body

Stay straight, stay upright
Keep your eyes ahead

The cloud blurs, the white blending
with the orange underbelly
It begins to resemble a sunset
Ah, sunsets

I laugh at myself
But still I change my directions
My thigh relaxes
Toes uncurl ever so slightly

The platform shifts
My knees buckle

* * *


Listen to Audio Version.

Have you ever counted by sevens?
Yes, sevens
Not when you were in third grade
But as an adult?

It's not easy
The counting
But there is solace
In numbers

I count
By sevens
As instructed
seated in an unfamiliar chair

The chair in its dark chamber

The motion continuing
in my body
Even when
the chair has stopped

Again around and around
Slowly, gently
Then faster

The doctor sets me in motion
Orders the numbers
Secure in her well-lit booth
I cannot see

My head
Secured in a brace
in a chair
not meant for comfort

With a back
my body cannot touch
Pitched forward

My head encircled by metal
Spiraling in the blackened cell
Climbing upwards

Spinning, I count
Seven, fourteen
Relying on
known numbers

Twenty-one, twenty-eight
A small pride
I know this

It gets harder
to remain distracted
As the numbers go higher
Seventy, seventy-seven

Into unfamiliar
The spinning
Again, again

My back aches
My stomach tumults

The tossing

I know the numbers
Can add by sevens
Even as I reach higher
Even as my stomach whirls

The spinning
I don't
But I
Can count

On numbers
On seven
All the way up
To two hundred and thirty-one


Ann E. Wallace, PhD, is an Associate Professor of English at New Jersey City University, where she has served as the Coordinator of both the Composition Program and the Writing Center. She has published on literature of trauma and illness, as well as on her teaching practices within the composition classroom. Additionally, she writes poetry and creative nonfiction on her experiences with ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis. She earned her doctorate in English from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a master's degree in Women's Studies from Rutgers University.