Consider that inclemency is always possible. If you come out often enough, and stay out long enough, inclemency may be inevitable. I don’t want to lie to you about this. Once, when I still lived on the West Coast, there was a frightful storm. In the aftermath, I went running down a barren road, which had become a valley with snowdrifts piled high on either side. A truck drove past me, and as it did, a passenger I could not see threw a ball of frozen rock against my chest. The ball hit the hard wall of my sternum and ricocheted into a ditch where I paused to examine it—sharp edges of stones, and bits of sticks, protruding spike-like from deep inside the ice. I was out then, in the literal sense, but not yet in the figurative. I remember the shock of the impact (impact, I named it, for I did not want to admit pain) and how my body fought to absorb it. Still, my mouth dropped open, unbidden, and a sound escaped that I had not heard before. Thwack! the ball said as it struck the wall. Oooof! I answered, doubling over, breaking my stride. Distant laughter from the truck. An epithet hurled into the air. It too struck the wall of my chest, but this word defied gravity. Which is to say: I couldn’t find it in the ditch and wondered then if it lived inside me—if I was, or had just become, the piercing thing they said. Some mouths are catapults after all. Some words are sticks and stones. They cut in like caveats. Once uttered, they do not melt, cannot melt, and so they lodge. That day I kept running, and my chest kept throbbing. Maybe I thought I could outrun the memory of the moment or the question that chased it: Why? I kept running, and the road kept unspooling before me like a slick ribbon. In time, I could see the ribbon beginning to fray. Looking both ways, I flung myself further into the bracing cold, perhaps without bracing enough. But there was also the heat my body continued to make, the swirls of my breath that continued to prove how possible I was and am. Gash in the expected landscape, I too cut in—less like a scythe and more like a hand requesting a dance. I too refused to melt. Later, in my small apartment, I tugged the wet fleece over my head. I spotted the bruise, coin-round and blood-blue, its dark tread in the valley between my breasts. Had I always carried such a bulls-eye in my body? It seemed that I had. Would I always fear the loud rev of an engine, a window rolled down in the cold? It seemed that I would. I don’t want to lie to you about this. But it is just as true that in the same place where once I was pummeled by a force beyond myself, my future lover would rest her head and listen to the foxtrot of my heart.

Julie Marie Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami. She is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, prose, and hybrid forms, most recently Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing (The Ohio State University Press, 2020) and Skirted: Poems (The Word Works, 2021). With Denise Duhamel, she wrote The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose (Noctuary Press, 2019) and with Brenda Miller, Telephone: Essays in Two Voices (Cleveland State University Press, 2021). Her forthcoming collection is Meditation 40: The Honesty Room (Pank Books, 2023). Find her online at

Photo by Amy Selwyn