The Dancer

“Perspectives”, “The Dancer” and “Sewing Lessons”

In Poetry by Emily Fox

Perspectives

i.
It was a cold day when I knew,
when the bile rose up
and the fatigue set in.
Cold and rainy, the window
blackened and splattered
with the faint glow of streetlights.
A conformation in plastic
teetered on the edge
of the stained ceramic bowl.

I am a mother,
nothing yet in my arms
but I feel a stirring in myself.
“The miracle of life,”
they tell me with smiles
plastered on their faces.
I curve in on myself,
still small and thin,
protecting the pea hidden inside.

I lie awake at night
(Though I know I should sleep
while I still can)
and the seed of worry
takes root next to my pea pod.
Both grow at exponential rates.

ii.
It was a cold day when I knew,
when the blood ran black
and thick and right on time,
never late but always
a rude house-guest. I sit
silent and worn, a bomb
in my stomach as I perch on
a flat white chair in
a flat white office.

The annoying overhead buzz is
meant to be soothing,
but it is driving me mad.
Magazines crinkle and people
are breathing, breathing, breathing,
stealing the precious air.
The clock on the far wall
is horrendously wrong, and flaunts
its ignorance loudly.

My eyes are dry. My
mouth is dry. My skin
is dry like old paper,
mottled and pale and unwilling
to cover my insides
like it is supposed to do.

i.
I am swelling, a grotesque
balloon of skin and fat,
my face moon-round and red.
I am deformed, a child
with a ball stuffed under
her shirt at playtime.
I have swallowed a bucket of eels
and they are swimming still,
rippling and dancing.

I am calm. It is the
calm before the storm, when
the wind whispers secrets to passersby.
It is quiet, so quiet.
I know it will not last,
but I do not revel in the silence.
It is hot now,
and I am heavy with
heat and sweat and waiting.

ii.
I am diseased. I am death.
I am stuck in a world of black
and white nothingness.
Life shies away from me—
see how scared they are to touch me,
to meet my eyes.
I am not in the mirror. That
face is blank and empty.
I am not, not am I.

My chances have come and gone,
dissolving into a misty haze
that clouds my vision.
I am blind, so they lead me
with words, their hands just
out of my reach.
I think I am moving.
I think I am healing.
I think I mustn’t think so much.

i.
So blue she can’t have come from red,
she lets loose a furious cry.
I know, my darling, I know.
Needles and thread and suction,
that’s what new lives are made of.
She looks like no one.
Her eyes shut tight, she
refuses to see the new world.
But one day she will.

ii.
I am a statistic, and I
wear it proud like a badge.
I am broken, but new.
My face came back to me.
The faintest of chalk words
show on the blackboard,
hidden just beneath the surface.
I am white and fresh.
I am whole again.


The Dancer

Twenty-two shouldn’t sound like this:
all pops and creaks and groans.
Oil up before you move, or your
hinges will snap in two.
Work out that continual ache from
your legs, your back, your heart.

They tell you to stop,
but you just look at them and laugh.

You can’t stop breathing,
so you take your place with your face
on and push out.
Pirouette on a pedestal.

You can’t stop living,
your body shiny and slick with sweat
and tears and blood.
Back to second.

You can’t cease to be.


Sewing Lessons

Mama sure tried her damnedest
to teach me how to sew.
Her hands, strong and steady,
smoothed the fabric like she was
trying to smooth the lines from her face.

Mama always had that look about her,
trying to fit in where she didn’t belong.
She was raised in the California smog,
on beaches and in suburbs, not in
“the middle of fuckin’ nowhere,”
as my sister screeched daily.

Mama wanted to be from here,
be like the people who rose with the sun
and worked themselves until they died.
This town had no need for
fashion designers, no matter how
talented they might have been.

Mama made dresses, skirts, blouses,
and explained each step as I sat on the floor,
itching to feel the grass between my toes.
Even now, I get as far as a button
and I’m off and running to anything else.

Mama had good intentions.
But I was too wild, too much my Daddy’s
daughter, to be tamed and civilized.

About the Author

Emily Fox

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I live in Western North Carolina, where I work as a high school teacher. I have been previously published in The Penmen Review and All Roads Will Lead You Home, and I hold a M.A. in English and Creative Writing.