At 20°

It was the way he walked, which led to my puzzlement.
Yes, in Bangor there were many steep roads to descend,
but even on flat terrain his legs went out before him,
as his stiff spine pushed itself back into what appeared
to be an invisible wall.

And, yes, Bangor did have fierce winds that could drive
a person backwards,
but even without inclement weather, he walked on with
his lower body at twenty degrees to his torso.
No, these particular variables could not explain his
unusual, grotesque gait.

Learning something of him: the schizophrenia; the alcoholism;
the occasional scabbed and bruised forehead,
I knew it was a fear of…


that steep roads and strong winds come and go with passing hours,
but gravity will always remain to threaten.

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44 thoughts on “At 20°

  1. what an interesting person you captured…gravity will always remain…i like the play in this as it is true…we all have those things that weigh us down…and the fear of falling completely as well…nice write…

    • Thanks Brian,
      He was an interesting character. He often tapped people for money, and I always found a bit of change for him. In return, whenever he had smokes he’d always give me one. I didn’t smoke, but I always accepted, as a way of creating equality, and hopefully he created some good karma along the way…

      • smiles. i remember this one! pretty cool extension in your comment on him offering you smokes…you taking them to create a connection…ha…that is cool…

    • When I walk in forests and have to climb down a bank, I look quite foolish, as I always want to go down on my backside (might as well be as near the ground as I can be) rather than try and walk with dignity only to go A over T!

  2. I really like this a lot, especially what you did with the word “falling.” And also these sections:

    his stiff spine pushed itself back into what appeared
    to be an invisible wall

    his lower body at twenty degrees to his torso

    Learning something of him: the schizophrenia; the alcoholism;
    the occasional scabbed and bruised forehead

    gravity will always remain to threaten

    This makes a nice metaphor for any force that might seem out to get you, or any danger you might be more susceptible to than others.

  3. You described the interesting details of this man that made him come alive for the reader. I liked the way you took a ‘smoke’ from him, even though you didn’t smoke, so he didn’t think about the money so much as charity…. I enjoyed your anecdote.

  4. The solution is walking backwards.
    Great way of saving energy, especially uphill, and the weight distribution prevents falling. I do it for miles.
    Not kidding. Nightjars? Hear of them but have no idea what they sound or look like.

    • Their way of attracting mates is to fly through the air clapping their wings together, which makes a unique sound.

      I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to walk backwards,

  5. ..i think bad guys are meant to be understood & accepted in the society… they tend to be bad & repeatedly doing bad coz they long for attention & acceptance… although not in all cases this is applicable somehow this could offer ’em good karma & better way of life… when i was younger i made friends with bullies for two reasons: first for my survival… the other one as way of understanding ’em why they do what they do… and maybe offering help if it needs so… thanks for this Rowan… i have enjoyed… have a great remainder of the week… smiles…

  6. I have a balance condition [yeah, bummer right] so I can completely empathize with this fella as fear of falling is always there like milk in a cuppa.
    If you think the winds were bad in Bangor, try coming to the Toon and feel those nor’ easterlies cut right through you. Down there, the wind is off the warm Atlantic, up here, they come straight down from the Arctic or Siberia. Brrrrr, blood y cold just thinking about it 😉

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