"Ten bucks says you can't do it," shrilled Jack Boles, 

who didn't have ten bucks, but had a Junior 

Gymnastics gold medal from the "Y."   


Dad leaned his rake against our sweetgum tree; 

lowered his hands, and sighed.  His belly—soft 

and rounded as a pile of leaves—flexed 


with his knees before they straightened, shooting him 

up higher than I could have dreamed, his arms

level with the ground, knees lifting to meet 


his hands, which pulled his knees over his head 

as he spun like a cam on a drive-shaft, 

a Foosball-man on its shish kebab of steel.  


For an instant he hung: a poor, tricked codger 

upended in his chair, thin gray hair plummeting 

straight down. I pictured him stretched 


on the ground, spine snapped, heart burst, 

white-coated medics mouthing, " . . . nothing 

we can do."  But he kept turning, his tuck 


opening, legs feeling for the ground.  

His feet hit hard. He staggered, took a half-step 

back, arms shooting out like antennae— 


a Victory V—as the lawn, a Texas sponge, 

sprayed creosote into Zack's face, 

and streams of crystal glory over me.  



from Reading the Water, published by Northeastern University Press, © 1997 by Charles Harper Webb.