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Balancing Acts

by Sandra Meek


Erasing the surface made them treasure, coins
we balanced on the tracks, the train so
explosively present one steel-dark second
retreating to the invisible, the out of sight, the linear
made circular: life stripped of the prospect of an after
is one straight shot foreknowledge
of return to physical diffusion
arches until the shortest distance between two points
is a circle, it's a matter
of perspective: emptied rails join
at the horizon, two hands in prayer,
kids left scrambling for blank wafers

spun off the track. One's overflowing cars
trailed mica, glittering sugary lumps leading
into forever like Hansel and Gretel's bread-crumb trail
spelling the way home, too tempting
to survive scavengers—blackbirds starved
shadowy angels throwing the predestined

into reverse. There's a tourist machine
that flattens a penny, stamps it
with a local attraction—World Trade Center, Chattanooga
Choo-Choo: turning the crank
is alchemy, marrying creation and destruction;
for one moment, the copper tablet's a tabula rasa
childhood's untraced stationery, old age's
forgetfulness, blank coin for blank eyes on the passage
we want to keep rowing, refusing landing
either shore, avoiding confronting the eternal

or the end of time. Until the gears catch and the coin's
newly minted. Will we have to own up
to the pettiness of our prayers, the originality
of sins flung out the window
in confession, in the shimmering
rhetoric of rebirth to the hot
changed wind? Hair filling with cinders, black meteors spilling
from what drives landscape to the splitting
edge, two parting green waves

turning their backs. What is the real point
of no return? Stepping off
each platform one direction
into the future, each arrival ground into faces spirited
away by the journey, vacant as those faceless medallions
struck off the track, brighter for the absence
of words, of history, the coin's erasure memento
mori of metallic weight's unbrakeable
rush into vanishing, an afterimage of smoke
and coal's blown stars.

 

Sandra Meek was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Award for Poetry in 2003, both for her collection Nomadic Foundations (Elixir, 2002). She has also published a chapbook, The Circumference of Arrival (Elixir, 2001), and her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, Colorado Review,and many others and have been featured on the websites Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Poetry Net's "Poet of the Month." A four-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Meek was awarded Editors' Choice for the 2002 James Wright Award, given by Mid-American Review. (12/2003)


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