When Christie tries to keep her balance on street curbs
or slippery stone slabs, she shows her teeth.
Her windblown cheeks and potblack hair
make them blizzard-white -- but when she shakes

ripe mulberries onto an old bedsheet,
or peels dead webs of sunburned skin,
or pinches a locust shell,
the color changes.

I push her off which is to me less mean
than if she were walking the world's
tallest balance beam -- a formidable cloud-buster
of aluminum and rubber, the vision of an odd Swede

who didn't live to see it erected,
who wanted to see the sport of gymnastics
toughened up, who thought
the females were deceptively puny, especially

next to the Russians who stood
square-faced oak tree mammoths at
5-2 or 5-3, but in actuality it is
the very same deed.

One involves audible impact and a reasonably thorough
explanation to relatives, but there is still no excuse for
a height-related reduction in confidence making her
more susceptible to my shove.

So she just hops back up, still smiling, still beautiful,
still tiptoeing towards the earthworm or the drinking
fountain or the short-legged child needing an under-

who will hopefully
distract her
and bring her
back down.

Nathan Parker
The Adirondack Review
NATHAN PARKER's recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, Canary River Review, Snow Monkey, and Can We Have Our Ball Back? He is married to a dear woman, Christie. He loves Radiohead. He is an MFA student at the university of Alabama, where he helps edit poetry for Black Warrior Review. He loves moving water, rivers and that, so hikes alongside any moving water as often as he can. He plays the piano, way too much.