After the Fall by Pat West


I’m not sure which saint covers luck,
but I must have pissed her off big
at some point in my seventy years.
No amount of physical therapy, massage, yoga
or acupuncture helps my hip
and my doctor only offers pain meds.

My ex-hippie friend nags me until I agree to try her shaman.
I take two buses and the streetcar
to get to his office.  First thing after hello I blurt,
How’s this supposed to work?
His ebony eyes glisten, I’m able to see things in people—
physical and spiritual things—and fix them.
This gift comes from my father and his father.

I settle on the sofa, gaze at a bowl on the table
filled with polished rocks, rattles and feathers.
He sits cross-legged on a cushion, silvery voice blends
with the drumming that plays in the background.
Scent of sage rises as he smudges the room.

He places his hands on his knees palms up,
tilts his head back, instructs me to do the same.
Fear’s serpent slithers through my midsection
but quiets when I toss my head back
and surrender to the workings
of this small mocha-skinned man.
Your right hip, he says, two years ago
you fell and still the pain runs deep.
He begins to chant and throat sing,
slow and steady.

After several minutes, thousands of pinpricks
cover my skin, ice cold then blistering hot.
My body trembles and I swear there’s a chicken bone
stuck in my throat.  I can’t swallow or cough it up.
What the hell?  I manage to choke.

The shaman places a smooth flat stone in my open hand
and folds my fingers.  Hold this, he murmurs,
let it absorb the toxins from your body.  Close your eyes,
stay still.  My hand trembles, I bite my lip and tighten my fingers
around the cool rock.  The strange sensations fade.  A shiver shakes me
as I stand and take the first pain-free step.

About the Author: Pat West


Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, Washington.  Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, San Pedro River Review, and Slipstream, and some have earned nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.