2012: Jena Peterson – Balancing Girl

SNHU Undergrad Poetry Winner from the 2012 Issue
Balancing Girl
Jena Peterson


When I saw you–frozen in a shutterclick–I was struck
suddenly breathless.
When did my tumbling-puppy-of-a-girl become this music box ballerina?
She wears my black dress like she was born to it, a wirewalker balanced
On the edge of the ocean, with the languid grace of a swan, or flamingo-Unspeakably beautiful creatures that light upon the earth
For mere moments before flying away.

Like you, my Balancing Girl.

Born under a high blue Missouri sky, you’d never seen sand
Or waves, or anything so immense as this Louisiana ocean-
You ran to it, wanting all of it at once–
Tearing off your shoes, barely noticing the beach nettles,
Hardly hearing my admonitions of jellyfish and broken glass and things
that sting.
Enthralled with thoughts of dolphins, tidepools,
Starfish–maybe mermaids–
Seaglass and shells, all waiting
In that sparkling diamond water which tastes of tears.

You were all child, running to the edge of those waves;
Flying hair and bare feet, bitten fingernails with chipped paint
All little girl giggles, finding treasure in every sand-sugared shell.

I never expected to raise the camera and capture this moment of
serene grace
When you stood on the edge of the ocean–
One leg raised, and your arms in an arabesque like the wings of a
new angel.
Your pretty shoes in one hand, your seashells in the other
Balanced on a tightrope of what you were…and what you will be.

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