Downhill, Paul Willis

Michael Diehl, Mossy





She’s going downhill, you said.

A journey we all must take, I said.

But you have your writing, you said.

Yes, I suppose, I said.

When she retired, you said, all she had was her visits with people.  That’s not enough.

Last week, I said, I fell asleep in the middle of a tutorial.  The student, she had to wake me up.

No! you said.  You told the student it wasn’t about her, right?

I can’t remember, I said.  It could have been.  It must be time for me to retire.

But you’re going to keep writing? you said.

Of course, I said.  It’s the only thing that keeps me awake.  Talking with people makes me sleepy.

Like now? you said.

Not now, I said.  But when I climbed mountains, I have to say I always enjoyed going downhill.  Much easier than going up—and the view was better. 

Hmm, you said.

I think you were yawning, I said.  Just like a crevasse on a glacier—a yawning crevasse.

Well, don’t fall in, you said.  Stay roped up to the rest of us.

The best part is glissading down the snow, I said.  All the way back to the high camp.

And there you will be safe? you said.

Yes, I said.  I’ll fire up the stove, boil some pasta, brew hot tea, and sit around with all the others.

Talking? you said.

Just visiting with the others, I said.  And then I’ll crawl in my sleeping bag and fall asleep.

May I join you? you said.

Certainly.  There’s plenty of room under the fly.  Room for everyone, I said.

Paul Willis


Review by Jared Pearce

Is this a poem or a short-short fiction?  Who cares—I like how it weaves the themes together by the end, and that weaving is, for me, poetic.


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

The problem is not the fall but the landing, a line from a 90’s movie. Jokes apart, yes, descend, downhill, degrowth (a word that even my Word processor underlines in red like blasphemy), we cannot sing and praise these motions enough in a world that tediously clings onto the idea that progress and climbs uphill are synonymous.

Most pre-Christian religions put the top of the mountain as the place closest to the god(s). I believe the Gospels tried to change that mentality, but maybe they have yet to sink in at an operational level. The simple physical truth remains, there’s more room at the bottom of the pyramid than at the top, where it will feel cramped even with two people. What about the view – I hear someone asking. As any climber will tell you, once at the top, you mainly stare at your unsteady feet and but briefly, to an infinitude of other tops sprouting in the haze teasing to be reached. If it’s about quality of life and finding room for everyone, then we should all agree (but we won’t) downhill is the answer.




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