Balance, by Jane Shlensky

Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, 2011 First Place

Jane Shlensky

Each morning Granny hobbles to the spring
uphill two miles with buckets in her hands,
through woods now thick with frost, limbs cleared of leaves.
And over rocks almost atop a hill
behind her house, she sees the water gush,
and, slow with age, she stoops to clear away
the leaves and sticks that clot the pulses’ rush,
and, cracked cup in her hand, she dips into
“sweet water” as she calls it, gathered wild
as honey in abandoned trees, and pours
the nectar into metal milking pails
to carry down the mountain, arms held far
from hips and sides, all tense–as pugilists
might hold their arms, quite low with hands in fists.
But her fists grip the metal handle’s cut
into her palms, as water weighs her down
and down the well-worn path toward her house.
I offer her a new artesian well,
but she just laughs at me and shakes her head.
I ask if I may carry home the spring
for her, but she denies she wants the help
and says it gives her reason for a walk
among the trees on any given day
and carrying two buckets makes her sure
of foot and balanced in a world that’s not.

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