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There isn't anything that's not important. Your toes
must be pointed, knees locked, buttocks clenched
to the edge of pain. Ribs arch, torso elongates
to an elegance impossible elsewhere. Shoulders
extended, you glare at your hands. So much
for the easy part, and truly, it is easy; you need only
get there and freeze the parts into place, then a corner
of your brain will keep them cold while you turn
inward, to the challenge. No one but another
gymnast would guess that it lies in the pressure
from ten whorled pads, in the hinge between hand
and forearm. Adjusting by microns, fingertip, wrist,
you play as a child, gravity the most beautiful of toys.
You could stay up forever, the world inverted
but in such perfect balance that coming down
is like a small deaththe line breaks, your feet
touch the mat, your spine reclaims its ordinary
curves; you are dull and mortal as before.

Linda Sue Park

(first published in Atlanta Review, Spring/Summer 2000)

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