by Theodora Goss
Sometimes I think that life is a ballet
in which I am performing for the first time
without rehearsals or any advanced notice
of what I’m supposed to be dancing. No one told me:
Am I a village maid, a sylph, Giselle?
A consumptive courtesan or Juliet?
A snowflake that, earlier in the performance,
played the part of a soldier or a mouse?
Am I a soloist? An understudy
brought out one night when the prima ballerina
injured her ankle? Or something more abstract:
The color green? A series of triangles?
Sometimes I wish they’d let me see the program,
but that is for the audience, not performers.
So I must do the best I can, en pointe,
to understand whatever part I’m playing:
Clara beneath the Christmas tree, a swan,
Sleeping Beauty rescued by the Corsair.
Not knowing who is watching in the darkness,
or where that polite applause is coming from . . .
(The painting is L’Etoile (La Danseuse Sur La Scene) by Edgar Degas.)