Coming up the basement stairs
Mom collapses on the landing.
Sticky orange two-liter soda
spews everywhere,
crushed by her oxygen tank.

Two sisters bolt to see
what the crash means.
I can’t move, scream
so loud it scares me.
A backward glance from one
sibling shuts me up.
Nothing broken this time,
but possibility, panic root
like contagion in my gut,
induces shivers I can’t stop.

I don’t know when or why
my fear of falling began.
As a child I climbed trees,
swung on vines
over steep hillsides.
When did I begin, in snow or ice,
to shuffle stiff-legged,
body hot and tense?

No skeletal breaks
until after I turn fifty,
slide in wet grass down my hill garden,
break ankle, fibula, tibia,
the jangly feel of bones
floating loose in my leg,
pain not yet arrived,
only adrenalin to scoot
on my bottom, up two flights of stairs,
over the threshold into my house.

A series of casts removed
with a small electric circular saw
the doctor buzzes down my leg,
wrenches the two halves apart
like cracking open a rib cage.

I receive the call
that Mom fell.
Centered in my belly,
a full-body quiver radiates.
I try not to think
about all the ways
we fracture.