Because I stagger like the elder sister I will parody one day,
the balancing pole and my small feet pick my way across
this moving glide of sparkles. In front and behind, occasional
splashes of hook-jawed chum distract my state of mind.
They don’t care if the barricade of my skinny legs moves
like limbs downed from age, storm, or beaver.

My boss, already across and waiting, excuses the outlier of me.
Not sure why: either stuck with me or awed by my inefficient
spunk, he ignores the trembling of ankle wobbling, the cobbles
never solid as they should be, unlike under his size 14 shoes
that say, “Balance me, dammit!” I refuse this imagined
hyperbole for myself since my balance is based on belief alone.

Hal’s voice rings out, a God echo, finally registering,
“Look up, look up to your right!”
Yes, there walks the elk, rack the largest I’ve seen still moving,
escorting me to the other side. He struts eight feet
away from my shoulder. Does he know my vulnerability,
my alien body not yet adapted to this river?

Sometime earlier, I was trying to cross an 8-lane street
in Cairo, Egypt, my son-in-law wondering why I had not followed
him across, my daughter home in their apartment waiting
for twins to arrive. The son-in-law, with hands on hips,
impatient, or so stressed he doesn’t know what to do with timid
mothers-in-law. A half-block away a man in his galabeya
looks at me and nods as if he had grabbed my hand,

and I crossed with him, and with another nod, he entered
the nether world of shadow streets before I could thank him.
Old elk, thank you, thank you. I cross between life and death,
a visitor who braces herself to accept kindness
whenever it is offered.


Cynthia Pratt’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The RavensPerch, Blue Heron Review, The Writing Disorder, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Sing the Salmon Home anthology, Kestrel Journal, and others. Her manuscript, Celestial Drift¸ was published in 2016. She’s a board-member of the Olympia Poetry Network. Website: