Tightrope Walking

In Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth,
the protagonist and his wife have had a child,
a much desired son. They walk along
talking excitedly about their beautiful boy.

Suddenly, fearfully they realize what
they are doing. The mother tucks
the baby out of sight, and together
she and her husband lament

the misshapen, unfortunate child,
hoping to deflect the gods’
vengeance and not to tempt foul fate.

A partridge setting on a nest
with chicks warm beneath her wing.
would understand. With danger near
she would cry out and feign wounded

wing, ‘round and around she’d run
to distract a predator from discovering
and destroying her chicks.

My mother too a fatalist, a strategist
and dealmaker with the gods, when
approaching a stop light that shone green
would begin her litany of denial: It’ll never last.

It’ll be red by the time we get there.
You’ll see. Eureka. The light still green
on our arrival, she’d drive on through
the intersection shaking her head

with a small victory chuckle. Either way
she won. She’d be right or she’d be happy
to take what the gods had offered that day,
more than enough for her.

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