Underbelly of the False Ballet

At the epicenter of our ballroom
the floorboards were dying to split open, against
the grain. But we needed the floor,

and by then we’d learned to dip and plié,
échappé and pas de deux. Bone grinding wood
grinding nail. In this family, it was dangerous

to talk about things out loud; the desperate stampede
back to equilibrium. So, we rewarded the dance,
encouraged it, even. No one wants to see

the ballerina trip and fall, collapse
under her tutu. Watch the lace, not the cracking
beneath her; watch the twirling and spinning, the smile

cemented on her face. Those were the lessons
we sat for after school while our friends took piano
and tuba. Even now I feel the barre rising,

and I can’t afford to jump that high any longer—
always having to be ready with safety nets and Plan B’s,
a chenille cushion under the trick floor.


Published in BREAKWATER REVIEW, May 2018.

2015, Finalist, Peseroff Prize, UMass., Boston

This poem may not be reproduced without the author’s permission.