Balance

Balance is noticed most when almost failed of –

in an elephant’s delicate wavering
on her circus stool, for instance,
or that moment
when a ladder starts to tip but steadies back.

There are, too, its mysterious departures.

Hours after the dishes are washed and stacked,
a metal bowl clangs to the floor,
the weight of drying water all that altered;
a painting vertical for years
one morning – why? – requires a restoring tap.

You have felt it disappearing
from your own capricious heart –
a restlessness enters, the small leaning begins.

Already then inevitable,
the full collision,
the life you will describe afterward always as ‘after’.

Jane Hirshfield

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