My Dance Teacher’s Feet

She isn’t wearing her slippers yet
and beneath her pink tights, root-like gnarls
of flesh swirl along her crooked toes
that are bent like sticks…Waiting for class
I trace the pale purple and blue streams up
the tall hillside of her arches, around
the deltas and islands in the curve
of her ankle bones. How indelicate
her large feet are – more like my mom’s
than a dancer’s! Is this my future?

I look up: bandaged in layers of white gauze
her fingertips lie like dead roses on her lap
so limp I forget my fear and ask
what happened. Startled, her severity slips
and she tells us how boiling tea water
spilled down the stove. What would it
be like to be alone? Who would hear her cry?
Someone must have. How else could she have fixed
her hair for class?
“The cats couldn’t really help.”

The bolt-ferocity of her eyes waver
as she asks if I will help tie her slippers.
Wiggling closer to her thigh, cat hairs
and cigarette ashes tucked in the folds
of her pleated skirt tickle my nose
as I pick up the two ribbons, rehearsing
then reversing the circles and knots to tie.
Wrapping one strand inside and around
the other, outside in, pink satin
becomes a river flowing around
her ankle. Tying the last knot I see
through pink waters to the riverbed
of her muscle and bone.

From Bone Dream