The Way You Spell Success
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The Way You Spell Success

They say life can turn on a dime, but why a dime and not a wheel, already engineered for revolution? Why only a dime? Aren’t revolutions worth more? Pirouettes are pretty but where do they go? Centripetal twist, corkscrew flutter of tulle. Revolutions travel. Better than convolution, coiling back to cocoon or caul

thrall of fingerprint whorl and Herb Alpert on your mother’s turntable, how you danced as a four-year-old, orbiting in place ‘til you collapsed on the linoleum. Vaulting from the neighbors’ backyard merry-go-round to vomit on their lawn. Hula hoop swivel and wobbly loops around the block on your first bike, first spin of the bottle, first spin into the bottle

briny laps around the glass and pool before the spooling inward. How life revolves around what and how you choose. Years later, you’ll claim that bike crash was the fulcrum: cycling home from a closing-shift dime store job, no headlight, no reflectors, risk you realized only riding moonless under rain. Grateful for your orange knapsack crammed with Safeway apples and strapped like a traffic signal across your back

before the screwing inward. You would remember your screams, the rest in shards—pickup truck’s headlights, bike snapped in two, siren, circle of men take it easy, son apples scattered like cue balls from your orange knapsack. Roll of dice and what you lose. Sling, shuffled limp, body bruised to eggplant bloom. A few white knuckled months. But nearly nothing

not that butterfly in an urban park on a garden magazine afternoon—saffron flutter and ill-timed loop to taxi grille. You and a friend rushed in like EMTs, lifted it from blacktop to grass where it shuddered, forewings askew, hindwings slowly flapping, then pointing upward, still, stained glass roadkill [End Page 13] roulette of what and how you choose, cash or scripture in your wallet, stalled construction season traffic on that secondary route, quivering air flecked with migrating monarchs that somehow know the way. One settled on the blacktop beside your car in the path of a crawling semi, inches from the wheels

or that crosstown city bus you boarded, halting at the scene: police car blocking traffic, crumpled bike against the curb, ambulance disgorging paramedics but the cops are shaking their heads, butterflied body already bagged in smiley-face yellow and now the cops are lifting it to their trunk, outline of nose, hollow of eye, cheek and browbones straining against the polyethylene, bus passengers jolted from collective solitude ohhhh

if you had chosen better tools. It wasn’t the crash, but years later, long schooled in spin, you’ll insist you began imploding on impact, curling into yourself like a fetus and afterward nearly always seeking the safest way, always a mistake: the straw marriage, job offers—interviews, even—declined, men—many of them likely good lovers and some, you’re sure now, good men—turned aside, forfeited moments accruing to years while semis spatter gravel from the freeway, friends whiz by waving from minivans crammed with kids and vacations, peers in pickups packed with cowboy boots and book awards bolt towards jobs, house, horses, lovers and pals on hospital gurneys hurtle past trailing IVs, oxygen tanks, courage you can’t even imagine as you fumble along the service road, eyes trained on the pavement, searching for coins. [End Page 14]

Terre Ryan

Terre Ryan is the author of This Ecstatic Nation, a work of nonfiction (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). Recent works have appeared in Diagram, Sierra Nevada Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, and Spillway. She lives in Baltimore and teaches writing at Loyola University Maryland.

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