Standing on One Leg

I was nine when David Simmons died.
He had beaver buck teeth and pineapple hair 
	sprouting in all directions.
One day he was in class, the next he was gone,
the quiet boy who couldn't do long division.

They sent us home early.
My grandmother was visiting us.
What did I know about death?
I was afraid that I was about to die too.

She told me that as long as I could stand on one leg,
strong and balanced, I would not die.
Masai warriors, standing guard over their cattle,
often stood on one leg, as did water birds waiting for prey.

Sixty-four years later, whenever I feel in danger of dying,
I find myself standing on one leg,  
Masai warrior scanning the bush for lions,
blue heron waiting in the shallow water.

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Masai Warrior

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