dancerina dolls in san francisco: a lamentation
by Teri Elam

especially at daybreak when I am silent
a bevy of ballerinas tiptoe-glide
creaking inn floors allegro en pointe
chattering about cute boys or girls —
like odette betrayal not yet released
they spin fair-haired grins from lavender
leotards long pink-opaque-legs
masking blister-toed-danskins;

these free-flowing teenaged swans
nimble-limbed not immutable like the dancerina
doll left under our stark aluminum tree when i was 6
her pale-haired blue-painted-eyes point-toe
hands bent in permanent position hard-plastic torso
stuffed in harsh fuchsia tutu hard to hold
her pink crown spinning spinning spinning —
my pony boy cap gun holster-vest
missing beneath the tree;

these young ballerinas raw-grace
not awkward like me at 6 begging to quit dance
my mother bemused missing my pleas my please
for sulfur-smoke-smelling red bang caps
slow-rolling my feet after a good round
spinning faux-pearl-handled silver toy gun back
holster-hanging right hip smooth like heath barkley
on big valley — wild afro puffs my daddy’s smile
not a ballerina i was a cowboy;

at midnight on the bus i spy the teenaged swans
flaxen hair hanging giants caps side-cocked
beats their new jewelry black tee over skinny-jeans
blister-bejeweled feet in chuck taylors rapping
cute boys or girls — at mission street they get off
hip hop bass rock shouts their greeting — a lamentation
they slow-lift into the crowd spinning spinning spinning —
hushed i watch them i watch them vanish
i watch them vanish into a mist of pink glitter dust.

PHOTO: The author as a child in an outfit she preferred over leotards.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was six, my parents enrolled me in a ballet class, and, being a quiet child, I did not protest. Luckily, after the first recital, they must have realized that I would not be making the cut for The Nutcracker. Many moons later, I shared space with several young ballerinas for a couple of weeks. In observing them, I realized how my six-year-old self still lived on via my many subsequent encounters with awkwardness (sometime humorous) and/or silence/silences since.

teri elam

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teri Elam resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and has had poems published in Chemistry of Color, Dismantle, Electronic Corpse, and The Ringing Ear. She started her poem one summer when she shared space with some ballerinas while attending the VONA/Voices Writers Workshop.