By Sue Cowing
The other girls, who half and hour ago
formed with her a stiff little crew
of bird-statues, tottering on the cliff,
have fallen, and falling, learned to fly.
At first they encourage her, promising
she won’t get water up her nose,
until they see she won’t try soon
and maybe not at all. They tease her then,
go back to their proud plummeting
and she’d left crouching on the verge
of the blue world where they can now
touch bottom with their hands.
The wrinkled toes of her right foot
grasp the tile rim. In theory
they’ll give push and spring
to the grasshopper leg bent close
to her chest. The left bends under
her body, flexed foot a little stool
on which she sits. And sits.
She knits her fingers still another way
at the ends of her long arms, says
she isn’t ready, hoping still to get the feel.
“Remember, just keep your head
between your arms and point them down,
the body follows.” She understands the words.
I’m not like them she says, afraid
it is true, afraid the teacher will not give up,
or that he will and will let her stand, relieved
and ashamed. Ashamed and having seen
over and over a beautiful thing
her body would not do.
from The Denny Poems