Poetry as Balance Beam

Because I don’t currently have a television, I wasn’t able to catch much of this summer’s Olympic games. But I did see just enough to remind me that once upon a time—in the summer of 1992, to be exact—I harbored my own dreams of Olympic glory.

I was ten, and a year or so earlier had happened to catch the women’s gymnastics World Championships on television. Immediately I fell in love with everything about the sport and its athletes, the serious young girls who approached their work with exactitude and fearlessness.

Flat-chested and well-muscled, with hair pulled back into strict ponytails or buns, the gymnasts looked at once prepubescent and adult. Their girlish features rarely portrayed any emotion—only fierce concentration. [Read more…]