Bob King

by Rachel Creager Ireland

back massage

Of my teachers in massage school,
he was the one I wanted to be like.
Bodybuilder, deep thinker, he taught me
the importance of balance in structure.
Intellectual: in another incarnation
he would be an engineer, but in this one
he was an engineer of the body.
Lengthen and strengthen, he often said,
and I still say it in my mind
when I’m touching a person’s hip flexors.
Lengthen that which shrinks down and inward,
strengthen that which is overstretched.
Let us each stand as tall as we are.
Big strong hands that could make you feel safe
by touching you, compassionate spirit
that could make the truth feel less scary
when he spoke it. Lengthen and strengthen.
I’ve come to that age when I know
that people I remember from a long time ago
are likely to be dead now, but hadn’t yet
when I heard Bob King had died.
Magician, wise man: He knew the secrets
of the body. He taught me how to breathe.
How could he not live forever? How could I
have had my last conversation with him?
I still hear his voice, the way he measured his words.
I still think of questions I’d like to ask him,
about the vagus nerve, or torsion of the pelvis.
For some people I would be willing to believe
in heaven. I’ll see Bob there, and we’ll talk
about how it was to be in the body,
the exquisite pain and the dancing, the feeling strong
and feeling like a jigsaw puzzle put together wrong.
Remember when we used to lengthen and strengthen,
he’ll say, and I’ll say yes, I do, I did,
lengthen and strengthen.

 

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