Ballet Lessons

Grace? You never had it, not as a childImage
dancing two steps behind the other girls
always lost to the beat which kept the line
moving in step. You were an alien
to your own limbs, laughing in innocence
at yourself in the mirror at the barre
until Madame saw you looking and came
to correct your poise: chin raised, confident,
leg turned back in, sculpting your stiff body
to a semblance of grace you never quite forgot:
first position, third, fifth, a drunk’s footsteps.

A drunk’s footsteps. You never quite forget
the archaic french, pas-de-chat, levée,
the jab of pins in your hair, worse than pins
and needles in your feet. The hairspray. The rush
to swap ballet shoes for trainers as class
ended. The awkward changing in the hall
where everyone’s parents waited, and you
could never find your bag, just as Madame
said you could never hear the beat, told you
to watch the others. Your mother said time
is your best teacher: wait, everything comes
if you are patient, and if it doesn’t
do without, dance two steps behind, get lost,
as long as you love that you are dancing.

A drunk’s footsteps. You remember the steps
in clubs, on buses, when you stand naked
before your mirror, self-conscious. Plié.
You were never graceful. Donc, prepare:
n’importe au quoi tu es, quoi tu fais. Dance.

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