©Lola Brown, 2009

©Lola Brown, 2009

Knees slowly cracking, bending
not like the swan she wanted me
to be-—holding breath—-
trying to ignite the one star
to harmonize fire with water.
This was not liquid movement
no ripple possible, hair tersely
pulled back to reveal jaw, throat
lips chaffed by the dry room—-
but a little was heat was necessary to
cook limbs into submission
as we held onto the barre.
Puckered pink leotard and
flesh-colored tights fit perfectly
purchased from Danskin downtown Berkeley
and the shoes—simple pink leather with elastic strap—
separated feet from floor.
But what was the purpose?
To astound toes with congenial manners
arms, port-de-bras, upright
curving out, as if to say
glad to make your acquaintance?
Not to run, but to slow-motion, emulate a tortoise
before becoming the hare?
Would any of these girls go forth from this studio
on MacDonald Avenue near the courthouse
to a career plunging their carriages
down over their legs like wooden puppets?
Or to don swan feathers stitched to backsides
carried from one side of the stage to the other
by a man in a jockstrap and tights
set down gently on the expertly polished stage floor
audience applauding to feet turned out?

©Laurel Benjamin, 2009

Laurel teaches English Composition at Laney College in Oakland, CA, to students from all around the world. She writes poetry, short stories, plays, memoir, and has translated the later poems of the German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine. She grew up in Richmond, studying music and covering her ears to prevent damage from the opera her mother played in the living room.

2 Responses to “Plee-ay by Laurel Benjamin”

  1. jblevine Says:

    So nice. Poignant and sweetly funny. Thanks for painting this picture.

  2. Lynn Says:


    This is wonderful! Its so you! I had no idea you were tormented with Ballet.

    Hope to see more writing


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