Grace Under Pressure

— Barbara Saxton

To be perfectly honest, I expected her words
to galumph down the page
like her huge feet follow rhythms
no one else seems to hear; that her stanzas
would fold awkwardly back on themselves,
like her five foot nine frame often bends
nearly double when she focuses hard
and completely in vain on the shoes
of a dancer in line just before her.

I was tempted to berate Erato
for whatever possessed me to mention in passing
our shared interest in poetry; I even sent up
mute thanks to Terpsichore each time
I narrowly escaped the grasp
of her paw as she barged into line.

For months, I felt safe
from that self-published book
she continually mentioned; then, one fateful Friday,
there it was: a thin volume was being thrust
into my hand! They cost me three bucks,
she announced, so I conjured a five,
murmuring, Thanks…Keep the change.

How could I know
such a simple transaction would obliterate
a wealth of mean misconceptions? This book the flip side
of her frame’s lumpish movements, its images
as crisp and concise as her dancing
was gangling and gauche.

In each poem, maladroitness
melted into dexterity. The same soulful music
her clown feet desecrated frolicked
and waltzed on the spring-loaded floor
of her ballroom of words.

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