Long over due - just another petal of me.
|A pair of toe shoes hang|
by faded pink ribbons--
tattered and threadbare.
Toes worn to scraps of fabric
barely covering the hard wooden tip,
arches broken, split at the seams.
but once, oh once,
they supported her
as she danced.
Giselle, Clara, Coppélia,
Juliet, and Sleeping Beauty --
she danced them all across
stages and worlds.
These were the shoes
she wore when she danced
behind iron curtains
and later, graced
nations. Whether a ten-shilling
ticket holder or before royals
she danced to the music of dreams,
danced to each, danced her soul.
Photos, some faded
to sepia, line the wall.
Caught mid grande Jette
or pirouette, lifted high
or balanced in a perfect arabesque,
each capturing the sheer essence of
poise and elegance.
Telegrams, aged, or hand-written
missives extol her performances.
Prima, indeed she was--
in all ways not simply within
a role. On and off the boards
she was velvet steel.
Always calm, no tantrums for her.
She danced out her demons.
No one saw, however, the goddess
backstage. When the lights were dimmed
and the audience long departed, no one
ever saw the tears that streamed,
as he gently massaged misshapen feet,
legs, calves shaking with tremors.
Only he lifted her, cradled her
in a steaming tub, tucked her
under warm blankets. Only he cajoled her
into slivers of fruit, a cup of tea.
No one but he knew her courage--
fighting sinew and muscles that cramped
as she practiced every day
for dances imprinted in every cell.
The world knew her face, her name,
and worshipped her with yellow roses
and acclaim. No one knew of him
let alone his name. He never cared.
Her escort, her rock, her love--
she was his reason
every bit as much
he was hers.
Long after that farewell dance,
after the last rose was tossed to the stage,
after the world forgot their darling
he was still there for her. He knew her
and loved her more than the masses
ever did or could.
Now they had time
for slow waltzes
beneath the trees
for a few steps, she could dance.
Now they traveled and saw
the places where she'd only seen
the insides of a theater, no longer
missing out on Sacre Cour or
San Marcos Square.
Now they nibbled art and snacked
on architecture, leaving the soaring
to the buttresses of Notre Dame.
And when like a lovely flower,
she wilted away, he was there,
her ever-faithful love to gather up
her fallen petals and preserved them
in the book of his mind.
You'd know her if you saw her picture.
But his name, except for some of us,
has been lost to the dying notes of a piano.
Know him now: dear, dear, Hans.
Half a foot shorter than she, one arm
twisted. He looked as if he'd been
pieced together from a pile of mismatched
body parts--all of them broken or discarded.
Except for his eyes. Sword silver and sharp.
Except for his smile. Tender and always for her.
Except for his mind. Facile, intelligent, and able
to keep all the myriad details in focus.
She always said that he
was her perfect partner.
For twenty-five years after she left
to dance among the stars,
he lived quietly. His small flat was an homage
to his love, to her dance, to her life.
Most of the money they'd saved
went quietly to sponsor those
who loved to dance. It never mattered
if they were brilliantly good; only that
they truly loved the ballet and would work
to be the best they could be.
He would come to performances
and sit in the very back row.
A yellow rose, her favorite,
left behind to show he'd been there.
Hans died in his ninety-seventh year.
Quietly, in his sleep, he left to dance
with his love. He took her shoes
with him, the rest of the memorabilia
he'd discarded. It was for him, only, you see.
Seventeen of us stood in the pouring rain
as a bone-chilling wind wrapped us in the
minister's words before blowing them to the trees.
Sisters in that moment although we were
but strangers called to say a final goodbye.
Two went on to rise to the pinnacle:
to be prima. The rest of us
took different paths,
lost touch. We were all
touched by Hans and his love.
And they dance on.
In our garden,
a yellow rose bush
is showing signs of spring.
Soon, it too, shall dance