Precarious 

by Leslie Ullman

Balance in moving parts: the rider
spurring her horse on a straightaway
before she remembers to
reach down and tighten the girth
or the skier dislodging new snow in a chute
too steep for a safe fall, skier and snow
riding the crest of themselves as avalanche;        

the vertigo new lovers ignore
at the heights of discovering, their hands
free over one another’s eyes, cheeks, their
histories waiting like unopened parcels
below they don’t know they
don’t know what’s inside and
then, if they survive the heat,
the anvil, the long cooling into a calm
devotion, a durable rhythm of speech
and silence, a thin sheen melts
and freezes imperceptibly (and they
know this) on a mountain road
one of them travels every day;

resilience gone slowly, undetected
in the heart, that reliable muscle,
or the hip or knee or tunnels of softening bone
one moment one holds one’s own in all
the threatened air the traffic and people in a hurry
are pushing through, and then
one doesn’t, or won’t again
without having to consider the weight
and isolation of each limb;
imbalance in moving
parts; separation;
prelude.