The Art of Walking  

By William Delman  

I am unsure of the best way in which to proceed with these memories. You see, I have so many, they have begun to crowd each other out, so that a moment I once recalled only yesterday with the clarity of youth now passes away behind me as an exhaled breath. For these and other reasons, first encountered long ago, I have finally decided to pause and convey the crux of my journey through your midst. Otherwise I fear that all my time might fall softly. Dreams always succumb, and not one of my footsteps left a lasting impression. But as always, I meander about, so let us have our introduction. My name is John.

What was for all of us a fateful progression was for me the first digression down innumerable pathways. I speak of that momentous occasion that occurs in most lives, specifically our first bit of walking. Even as they, my parents, waited behind me watching carefully for my first failure so that they might sweep down to lift me up, I feel they knew I would not falter. They could not have known however, crouching in the small living room of the small apartment we shared, that I would never again lean on their guiding hands. At first this failure to return was only rooted in my peculiar talent and predisposition to curiosity. Indeed, following that first step I took many, navigating quickly the perimeter of all spaces permitted. And still they waited, despite my obvious gift and inclination, for the moment I would from my perusals beneath the family portraits, around the beds and tables, and closets shut, recall their gentle hearts. Each of these things principal held my fancy for a small parcel only, before I was again seduced by my inclination to wander. After a time, I know not how long, I returned to find the living room empty. My father sat at the kitchen table; my mother stood by the window over the kitchen sink, looking away.

Briefly this distressed me, but soon was I assuaged by the numerous compliments I began to receive. When my mother, for instance, would bring me shopping at the grocers, I would walk comfortably by her side while others my age were being carried, or ridden uncomfortably in the seat of some pushcart. The ladies would comment with a glint of jealousy “My how well he walks, so graceful. You must be very proud.” As often as not she would only smile and give her appreciation with a simple nod. These are my happiest memories from my earliest days, for it was not long before the situation changed. You see I grew board easily as she stood leaning over a collection of fruit, searching for the ripest morsel, and I would go wandering about to her distress. It was this that prompted her to cage me like the others in one uncomfortable seat after another. Oh how I would howl to no effect, except to make her cross and my situation worse.

Yet as I grew and grew, still more so did my grace until at last I was a marvel. People that would see me walking down the street would often stop to watch, and those with whom my parents were familiar would comment graciously, until everyone became convinced that my future must lie in some sort of athletics. Coaches and instructors alike would invade our home with phone calls, and all would convince them one at a time to suggest an attempt at this or that. Often I would try these, as all movement was seductive to my heart, only to find that my talents were limited. In games with walls or boundaries I was useless. My natural and catching gait failed to translate into running, dancing, or swimming. It was not that I performed poorly in these things, only that I performed without joy. I was always painfully aware that in these other motions or games an element of my real talent was being lost, or perhaps my real inclinations were being left to starve.

Such limitations were disappointments to my parents and myself, but our mutual anger fostered no greater bond between us. We could not stand to be linked in such a way, and so the distance between us grew though I had yet to realize the implications. It was only over time, and with differentiated study, that my thoughts were slowly directed towards my greatest purpose. Though I learned poorly sitting, certain subjects never failed to excite my imagination. It was with focus that I studied the arts in grammar school and then in college, so that my friends and family began to suspect that I might one day find some humble employment in a museum. I was particularly attracted to the Expressionists, to Dada and Duchamp. Thus inspired I began to experiment in my own medium..

Now keep in mind that not once, during all my years, had the compliments directed toward my locomotion ceased to stream forth from those I knew. By all accounts I was the most beautiful of walkers. My few friends understood well my love of walking, and during these years I must have spent months walking if ever the hours could all be reunited. My jaunts were such that I would never find accompaniment for very long, for no one I knew or found loved this thing as well. And then there was also my propensity for silence on these explorations. You see, even those that had the stamina to follow were inevitably worn down by my obsession.

But I digress; I was dealing with the idea of experimentation. Yes well, to continue, my education in the arts led me to begin an exploration of the possibilities, expanding my horizons so to speak. First subtle, and then with drastic modifications to my posture, my stride, the depth of the bend in my knees, the way I would place my feet, led me in new and varied directions. It was during these, during my late college years, that I noticed a marked drop off in the compliments I had grown accustomed to hearing. While I was still the recipient of many inquisitive looks, my sense of isolation increased. But so too did my drive, until I was walking near every hour. I began to miss my classes, and worse still I grew board walking the same old paths over and over. The yearning to undertake a truly great journey or project was building even as my parents chased after me, demanding to know why I had abandoned my studies. Never did my yearning relent.

As my problems grew out of my talent so too did my talent increase, and served as the answer to my problems. In congruence, my isolation became more complete and my disposition distant and by other accounts, curt and sour. In hindsight I see that these accounts can not be disputed, though where as I once attributed my melancholy humor to the lack of interest shown by others to my pursuits, I now see it had far deeper roots, reaching so far back that the trail disappears behind my birth. But enough of this; while it is needless to say perhaps, that I was wrapped in my vision of a great undertaking to the detriment of my relations, it might be best to illuminate you further. So possessed was I by my calling that I even lost sight of myself and my needs as a member of the human race. I felt at once elevated and buried by my desires to pursue that for which I had been born. And what was this great mission? To show the world the immensity of my talent, and to raise this everyday activity, in which most participate, to the level of an acknowledged art form.

My appeals for support were of course turned aside by my professors and friends alike. My mother and father could not understand my passion, but promised some small sums of money, a promise they kept until their deaths. All others refused even to acknowledge my position, arguing that what made the arts were by nature esoteric and social. Not all were, or will ever be as obsessed as I, and now I have reached a point of confession. It is this that I was walking away from, that compelled me forward, this lack of connection. My journey was not a journey toward people but away from them, for though I met and befriended many, I stayed with none. This is not to say that my quest for recognition went completely ignored, for as I said earlier, I am a beautiful walker. For a time I held a great following, and once even received a corporate sponsorship. In some circles I grew very famous, but now, as I near the end of my days, I can see that I never achieved what I set out for. Most of the world walks as always, and most of the world has forgotten my passage. Still, I reach out and fall asleep knowing that at least to some degree I have lived in harmony with my nature. Now I must be going. Thank you for your time, and please, think on what I have said.

William Charles Delman lives in Boston, and is currently finishing his first collection "A Book of Poetry With No Unifying Theme." His work has appeared in a number of journals, and he is a founding member of

Contact William Delman at

January 30, 2003
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