a high tolerance for pain

i broke my arm when i was eleven
getting out of the bathtub (don’t laugh)
where i’d been reading
for hours i’m sure
and knowing me, i probably still had
my nose in my book when i stepped out
and caught my foot on the edge of the


went down hard and hit my upper arm
against the corner of a cabinet
cracking my humerus (it wasn’t funny)
and yeah, it hurt like hell
but nothing looked broken and
i was always falling
tripping, running into walls clumsy
my middle name

three days later i still hadn’t
seen a doctor
no one at fault i just didn’t act
the way a girl with a broken
arm would
and anyway pain is always a guessing


but eventually, my mom suspecting
an x-ray was ordered
and i remember
being just a little bit silently glad
because there would be
six weeks of no chores for me
(stupid dishes)
and i had a stack of books to





A poem a day for 30 days, in honor of National Poetry Month.
This post is part of NaPoWriMo. see more here.
Also linking up with the fabulous dVerse poets with anecdotes for Poetics, join us!

22 Responses to “a high tolerance for pain”

  • brian miller Says:

    ugh…when i fell on a college visit we waited….3 days later my wrist locked up…they thought i shattered it…but tore the tendons away from the bone…ha…at least you got to read…i had to take senior exams wrong handed…

  • Kathleen Says:

    Reminded me of an incident too – engrossed in a book while trying to slice veggies with a sharp knife – not smart or funny! Wonderful – K

  • Sooz Says:

    Oh, this is wonderful. I love the skipping style of your cadence. Your writing is so artful !! Love.

  • Marilyn Says:

    Interesting! I wasn’t a read when young, but I could see myself doing that now. Having “a high tolerance for pain” also I do get concerned something important might get overlooked. I am glad your mom was aware enough to follow through and have your arm checked and that you didn’t have to do dishes for awhile.

  • Grace Says:

    I can relate to the falling and tripping, I was and still am a clumpsy girl ~ But good for you on not doing chores for a while and reading your books ~

  • Claudia Says:

    ha smiles…even a broken arm can have something good after all…six weeks of reading sounds not bad at all..smiles

  • aprille Says:

    I too was eleven and fell over a brick. Clumsiness seems to be the norm at age. Also ignored as I never complained. Then I dropped the lid of my desk at school with a resounding blow and the teacher took action. Six weeks of be-eing read to by a kind neighbour lady. Tell me, can you foretell snow? That is when it hurts even now.

  • Shawna Says:

    Oh, girl. This is really good. What stands out the most is your formatting, the way you dangle those final words to slow things down and make the reader think, and to add underlying meaning to what you’re saying on the surface.

    You’re basically ending on the note that life is a cycle, a repeating of habits. You will always be clumsy, you will always read, you will always break yourself, and you will always be tough enough to endure pain and get back up on your feet ready to do it all again.

    Only in part is this about reading, slipping, and breaking your arm. I see parallels with falling in love. Relationships involve reading people, getting to know them, fumbling and falling on your bum, breaking your own bones so to speak, and getting back up to do it again.

    I love this part:
    no one at fault i just didn’t act
    the way a girl with a broken
    arm would
    and anyway pain is always a guessing

    That line break, forcing “game” to fall as an afterthought so as to emphasize “guessing” — excellent decision.

    Impressive writing, as I’ve seen many times before from you.

  • Susan L Daniels Says:

    Oh, my. I broke my foot at work a long time ago, reading a memo while walking down stairs. How many times did I have to be told not to read and do something at the same time? Zillions. Loved this.

  • kkkkaty Says:

    loving this…our younger selves were so brave and resilient, weren’t we? A good book it must have been;)

  • Mary Says:

    Amazing that it didn’t hurt horribly enough for you to think it was broken right away. Ha, good not to have chores for 6 weeks though…not a bad ‘reward’ for your pain!

  • Rowan Says:

    Forget my arm, I wouldn’t risk dropping the book in the bath!

  • K.Young Says:

    I love what you do here.
    My middle name is Clumsy too.

  • Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …ha, at least you had longer time reading books… i was 11 too when i’d been in a car accident… it was terrible as i broke my right arm & leg enough reason to be in bed for a month… reading books became a salvation… smiles… thanks for this…

  • Steve King Says:

    Another outstanding “story.” What a gift you have for making these small bits of biography not only polished and interesting, but expressive of something universal. Very fine job. –SK

  • Marbles in My Pocket Says:

    Wonderful write! I understand the high tolerance for pain. Sometimes a bad thing, but it works well for me.

  • zongrik Says:

    at least your mom took you for an x-ray. some moms are negligent, and let you go on like that for years, and as kids we don’t know any better.


  • Tino Says:

    Even breaking bones has its compensations 😉

  • Marina Sofia Says:

    I like those dangling words between the stanzas, make you really want to stop and reread.

  • Imelda Says:

    Something good should come out of that discomfort. 😉

  • Sabio Lantz Says:

    Laughing ! New reading time.
    I broke my arm near the end of a typing course and had to take it over — my typing got to be real good.

  • rhayne Says:

    stupid dishes. yes.
    I wish I had a broken arm so that the dishes in my sink right now would stop screaming at me.

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