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Published: Fri Jul 1 2005
Art by Jin Suk
Airing

The idea was always
_                __                _transfer: how to use
_                _the body to eliminate

_                __                _the body; at thirteen,
_                _to experience bleeding
_                __                _toes as pirouettes turning

to tornadoessucking in
_                __                _and flaring out.

All that connects the dancer
_                _to the pocked studio floor

_                __                _is a block of wood concealed
_                __                _within a pink satin skin.

Grands jetés across the room
_                __                _to the score of the teacher’s stick,

_                __                _each staccato _chaîné_spotted in the mirror,

_                __                _eyes, head, flat plane
_                __                _of the torso doubling;

numbers choreographed and counted
_                __                _like an iron-clad pulse

_                _so all steps beat as evenly
_                __                as blood through the heart.
_                                                                Look.

You can see it happening,
_                __                _the delicate gauze of sweat and heft

_                _as each dancer strives
_                __                __                _to skirt the angles
_                _of the flesh, to strain herself

_                __                _into the glitter
of sun through skylight.

And is this after all
_                __                _these years,
_                __                __                _the point? To lose

the matter of the self,
_                __                _to move beyond

_                _the body’s weights & levers,

_                __                _those sensible mechanics
_                __                _that keep us functioning?

Clearly we are flesh,
_                _not air. Yet how we lean

_                __                _toward that crossing,
_                _the loss of body,

_                _movement as movement
_                __                _alone, voices now

_                __                __                _becoming instruments,

_                __                _words becoming
_                _no more, no less, than breath:

_                                                                watch as we expire._

Christine Marshall’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry, AGNI Online, Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, gutcult, Nimrod, and Western Humanities Review. She has been a finalist for The Nation‘s “Discovery” Prize, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Mahan Poetry Prize. She teaches at Davidson College. (updated 8/2012)

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