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Coffeehouse poets: “Balance” | Discover Yakima

The Yakima Coffeehouse Poets, a nonprofit founded in 2014 to advance the interests of poets and poetry lovers in Central Washington, is the organization behind this monthly poetry column, which appears on the first Sunday of every month. It features poets and poems from Washington’s heartland selected from Poet’s Brew and Yakima Coffeehouse Poets’ monthly open mic.

Read more about the organization at and

About the poet

Mark Burns plays acoustic guitar and sings as part of the Test Tube Poets trio. He is both a songwriter and a poet. After 35 years of creative language arts pedagogy and basketball coaching in San Diego and then West Valley, he is testing the waters of retirement and is restless. He walks, cycles, fishes, gardens, travels and sings. He is proud of Lindsay and Blair, his two talented adult children. He has been published in English Journal, Crab Creek Review, Shrub Steppe Poetry Journal, and the annual Allied Arts/Yakima Coffeehouse Poetry Collection.


Late on an autumn afternoon

I take a break in the Harman Center parking lot

fork fingers through the chain link

and scan the school’s track and playing field below.

There is a young father there with his daughter.

She is about six years old and has a brown ponytail.

It’s her first day without training wheels.

He bends down awkwardly and runs to her side, holding her upright

as she cycles around the oval.

She smiles, a watermelon at a Sunday picnic, and laughs.

He holds her up for two, three rounds.

My back hurts just looking at it.

“Again” she shouts.

They go again.

Once again he bends down next to her blue bicycle.

“Let go!” she shouts. And he does.

She crashes in the grass.

She jumps up.

“Again” she insists.

Again he starts her and then lets go.

She stays up one Mississippi longer

then crumbles into gravel.

“Again,” she asks, climbing back onto the chair.

So they go, and again he runs next to her

Longer this time.

She doesn’t know he’s let go.

She stays upright until the first bend.

I turn to head home and think

that we never stop trying

steer and remain upright

to find our balance around life’s tricky curves.

We never stop wanting someone to hold us

and still we cry to be set free.

Divorced, on the brink of retirement,

I admire the father’s endurance, the girl’s courage.

I stretch my shoulders,

smile and say


-Mark J. Burns