Laughing Tiger Buckles Slowly: A T’ai Chi Lesson

Tom Walsh

T’ai chi is going slowly. The instructor’s cat died and we spent a lot of time talking about that. He brought the new kitten to class on Tuesday. There are four of us in the class and I am (by far) the youngest.

I love it.


During High Pat on Horse, I snort-laugh when Doris (she’s at least twice my age and very heavy) says she hopes the instructor likes his new little pussy. He approaches me Creeping Low Like a Snake, elbow bent, hand coiled, wrist relaxed. His arm rolls twice, rises upward, his fingers strike my nose. It feels like someone stabbed me with a pencil.

I sneeze.


After warmups, Cleo (she’s got ancient henna hair) passes gas as she Steps Up and Raises Hands. I guffaw. I can’t help it, I’m in a mood.

I see Cleo Step Up to Grasp Bird’s Tail. I am Bird. I raise my arm, but she wards it off, pivots, gets underneath the block. I hear bone crack as her elbow connects with my ribs. She shifts her weight and drops me to the floor.

I groan.


I see the kitten approach Dottie (the oldest, yabbers on about sleeping with Tommy Dorsey in the day). The kitten jumps onto her shoulder and swats at the seven long hairs growing from a mole on her neck. Yes, I giggle.

White Stork Spreads Wings, Pouncing on Fish. Dottie is Stork. I am Fish. She half-steps toward me, shifts weight onto her back legs. Her left arm rises while right one drops. Wings block my hands, she knees my groin.

I try to breathe.


Moving Hands Like Clouds, I bow to each of them, wishing only they will Draw Bow to Shoot Tiger.

I am Tiger.

Tom Walsh is a husband and father writing from northern California. He has been a newspaper reporter, editor, trail dog, and wildland firefighter. His words appear online in Litro USA, Hobart, The Cabinet of Heed, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and elsewhere. The family’s calico cat was born in the UK on the Fourth of July and is, of course, named Independence.