What I’ve Been Trying to Tell You About Dancing
This business of bodies too often makes
a woman shrivel up and shrink
instead of claiming all of the space,
all of the stage, all of her life.
I didn’t learn to unclench until I fled
the slippers of glass, invisible but ever
present, pinching, shredding the curves
of my feet into raw, reddened wounds.
I’ve heard of tunnels that aren’t haunted
by trains or wrecks or absent light.
I’ve heard of traipsing toward a happy ending.
Last night you spoke to me of a princess
who not only slept on top of the pea
but skipped it across the moat, and married
not the prince—who’d want such a queen
as one’s mother-in-law—but the fish who’d gobbled
up the tiny globe, which somehow broke the spell
that had him swimming around a castle
instead of standing on its parapets. That happens, I know,
in ballads and ballets: limbs leaning into
whatever the story needs, however unnatural
its shape or color or trails. It’s often unearthly
and sometimes gorgeous and glorious
but what I crave at the end of the night
is a welcoming bed, sans litmus-test-by-legume:
to close my eyes and rest within steady
arms, or fins, or wings—we both spreading out
as safety and stillness slide us into sleep.
by Peg Duthie
Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem is the perfect foil for its fairy tale imagery, at once making it feel mythological and dreamy, yet also grounding the reading in what is real and true.