I’m not sure of the exact frightening, erratic moment when my heart tells me I’m incoherent– before a crowd of respectable young scholars, at that– and leaving out half of my planned brilliance. I just knew the fast beat skimming my chest, widened pupils, shaking limbs, and demolition of self-esteem. In fact, my brain’s cowered response was to dwell on future meals and the curve of the plastic-wood desk our professor leaned on while it stammered in embarrassment. He is understandably perplexed, thin European glasses digging into his nose. God, how many words have I repeated now?
You took all of this Jamesian life
into your ears and hands
like rusted clay.
And now your shining moment
Ruins you! Stupid, clumsy bitch!
Alas, the voice is not kind or helpful sometimes. On Tuesday night she danced around me with stunted arabesque and distorted plie en barre, slowly killing my hope with dark, painful questions. “Why are you here?” “What makes you believe this is your path?” That night I volunteered to represent a group discussion of cosmopolitanism and its role in The Ambassadors, and produced an enjambment of useless literary critique. It’s not an exaggeration.
Ten minutes later, I fled the scene of competent students and one well-meaning yet ignorant one: “Yeah, gurl, you gonna make it!” (Why do people still think all black Americans use incorrect grammar? In a graduate survey of literature? Come on…) Waiting for me elsewhere was comfort from my significant other, which also becomes, of course, anime. It turned into a better night, but before the mean ballerina left she pointed out all of my insecure, awkward public speaking engagements. Breaking a high note and missing words in my first choral solo; attempting to present a senior English paper and running out of the room to throw up; making simple announcements in community groups, knees wavering; much of this had to do with my hidden spirit finally exposed to the light. I haven’t been shy for ten years. What is it now? It’s the hunt for validation, plagued by nasty traps.
Between twilight and eight-fifteen in the morning, the tall and stately ballerina softly pounded to my side. A smattering of eloquent, perfect writers and teachers are and have been ridiculous failures; the presentation was sweetly looked upon by others as pure nervousness and not a testament to my intellect or occupational future; even if it’s not my life, I’ll know it and move on; if I roll up my sleeves and practice always, I’ll learn the courage in hard work and possibly become an articulate, cultured professor explaining these initial travails to fearful students.
“Feet on Bare Linoleum: Saturday”
Golden and composed scales soubresaut
inside my ears as the piano and violin classics mellow,
weathered blush leather cradling
my fingered toes in slim immolation
for Saturday’s dance and blessing,
first position, second, fifth.
The creepiness of spring lurches
my cycling knee into a mess,
twelve and blood nicely splattered
over a roasting gravel hell
that bathes the broken feet
in pebble and gives me fevered toes.
Summer fire sleeps in Grandaddy’s car
and bears my twisted hips,
reading the adolescent grit and grace
of No Way Ballet with opened arches
in royal blue leather below painted jeans
that are carpeted and recline.
Colors unravel in open-pit and paints
brushed over tickled noses,
my tiny community feeding itself
a banquet of moonbounce and paddle
boats around the hot cement march
One of my child worlds explodes wind
behind the thick run of “pat-pat”,
blue haze crowding cloud
as sunshine turns over heightened promenade
to jog marrying strength,
pavement and flowered training.
A field opens lily and silvered ponds
chipped by natural illumination,
subtle vegetation harbors
our pink-stained feet to strut,
to hail the midsummer bride
and catch her rapture.