- The Ballet Teacher
The ballet teacher says, “Release your neck.”
I think, “Release your neck. The sky is turning inside out.”
The ballet teacher says, “Breathe, breathe.”
I think, “Breathe . . . You . . . are a genius of sadness.” Then I think, “Where are all the naked baby birds?”
I grab my femur and pop my hip, releasing air from a joint that howls like something at the end of its dying.
The ballet teacher jumps up from her seat and says, “Be supple!”
I force my metatarsals into tendu devant. I think, “Be supple! Naked in your cartoon-yellow beaks. Highways of veins and purple eyes sealed shut.”
Then I think about the color of the slate sky, and how birds drop out of it while I’m asleep.
Sweat traces my spine and pools in the heart-shaped depression stamped above my sacrum.
The ballet teacher pushes her hands against my inner thighs. “Muscle up,” she says.
I think, “Muscle up,” and “Slippery beaks mouthing. Release your neck. Fourteen baby birds, breathe, breathe. Some of the baby birds are flying without wings.”
I inhale and port-de-bras forward. I look at my feet. The bones are sticking through my canvas slippers at odd angles.
I press my shoulders into my back and think, “I will carry an extra ribcage, just in case.” [End Page 33]
Then the ballet teacher ducks between my legs and says, “Tighten your anus!” and “Lift your triangle!”
I think, “Tighten your anus!” and “Triangle!” and “Evil toothy birds hatching inside mirrors!”
Then I peel my toes off the floor and draw a line up the side of my leg.
The ballet teacher says, “You dance like a cat in a waterfall.” [End Page 34]
Amy Schleunes is a writer, performer, and MFA candidate at the University of Iowa, where she studies both creative writing and dance. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming in the Missouri Review, Indiana Review, and PANK, and she will be a featured playwright in the 2012 Iowa New Play Festival.