What I Thought About When You Fell Off the Mountain

By Molly Lanzarotta

Copyright © 2019

You were the shiniest tree in British Columbia. You were the tallest car in Detroit. You were the warmth of the Lake Effect. You were the upstate to my downstate. You were the terminus of the Hundred Mile Wilderness and the start of something else.

I say:

You were the one I caught a glimpse of, and the glimpse lasted days, weeks, years.

They say:

Tell what happened, how do you feel, it’s unimaginable, drink this, wear this, sit down, take a breath.

I want to tell them all of it.

I tell them:

You were all the rushing and the politics and the slogans and the cleverest of the sincere cardboard signs. You were a long haul across the country. You were fusion music, but always with that reggae beat. You were haute cuisine with a homey taste to it.

I say:

Marriage is like trying find your footing on a mountain path, one of those improbably high mountains in California, say, San Jacinto, where any time of year there may be snow, soft, blowing, powdery, crystalline, crunchy, drifting, heavy, wet, or icy, or the sort of white that makes the path invisible, or a crust that your leg post-holes, sucking you thigh-deep and flailing, as in quicksand.

We didn’t know this.

Our shoes weren’t the right shoes. We zipped up our windbreakers. There was moment after tentative moment of feeling our way forward—a toehold, a well-placed heel—until you pitched. The snow was ice, and that’s not what we’d been warned about. We thought we were prepared, but who carries an ice ax? Who shows up ready for the free fall? Or to be left alone, frozen on the path.

I want to tell them all of it:

You were the foresight of the backward glance. You were an accident; also, the done-on-purpose. You were the understated superlative. You were the smell of smoke underwater. You were the grimace in the prayer. You were the underrated original. You were the woodwinds when they were silent, taking a breath.

I say:

The fall was a long, sliding moment that lasted days, weeks, years.


Molly Lanzarotta is a writer and activist based in Boston. She has a poem forthcoming in The Rumpus and has published short stories in The Cimarron ReviewCarolina QuarterlySoutheast Review, and in the books Brevity and Echo and What If?


“What I Thought About When You Fell Off the Mountain” was written at the Millay Colony for the Arts. Molly is especially grateful to have received the gift of time and space at the Millay Colony and other writing residencies including the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Outer Cape Artists in Residence Consortium, and the Noepe Center for Literary Arts.

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