Harold Brodkey

I am eleven pounds heavier than when I left the hospital in May. Now, in the country, I can stand straighter; my breathing isn’t so noisy. I am not in despair or cracked open. Or drastically humbled. And sometimes when I first wake up I do feel my body as I used to feel it when awake when I was younger, that odd, flexible, long-limbed extent of reliability and all the tubes of sensation flashed a little in a silent fusillade, and, in private, one stretched in a courtship display. That old sense of luck, of at-least-I-have-this-whatever-else-happens, returns but not in that verb tense. I feel myself to be smoke. Or when my eye catches part of the arc of flight of a bird, I feel myself shiver and swiftly break into clusters of flight. Sometimes the wind seems to enter me.

This passage, from Brodkey’s AIDS memoir, This Wild Darkness, which tells the story of his life in the months leading up to his death in 1996, is one of the best descriptions I’ve read on what it feels like to be in good health. I love this passage: Brodkey’s reference to long-limbedness speaks to what I experience when I’m at my best in my karate practice.

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