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Able Muse Write Prize for Poetry, 2011 ▪ Finalist

Richard Wakefield




      The little girl has reached a standing place
      midstream, alone.
      Her bare feet arc to fit the stone.
      She stands with slightly bended knees,
      her arms held out, a moment’s frozen grace.
      She ponders her next stride
      and sees
      that one is an easy span,
      the other a gap too wide
      to clear without a leap.
      But here’s the thing: the rock she knows she can
      attain lies slightly off the straighter way across.
      To keep
      the shorter course, she has to chance
      an airborne instant, a heartbeat’s loss
      of certainty.
      She eyes the glittering expanse
      of water, contracts her brows,
      and squints to see
      ahead to what next steps each choice allows.
      She contemplates her complicated hopscotch
      with all the poised solemnity of childhood,
      while from the riverbank the grown-ups watch
      and wonder what she’ll choose. And what she should.