Ballet’s Guide to OCD Which the French Call the Doubting Disease

Before it grew in you, shapeless
             as a carcinogen, all you wanted
             was the audience darkened

your body lit in four colors.
             You were certain it spread
             from the head. A sudden

distrust of the stage highlighted
             with polymer snow
             and a double pirouette lost

its axis. You were spotting
             the turn, balcony-onward
             when the floor split open

for your head, closing over you.
             Understage a leap repeats
             itself off-rhythm.

Understage you land without cartilage,
             while tulle skirts above catch
             a collective whirl. You want

now simply to be barely,
             not like a dancer who starves
             her muscle down the shin

and clavicle, but the quiet
             between notes, the
             celloist turning the page.


Second Position (Home Practice)

the feet point in opposite directions,
with heels spaced approximately twelve inches apart

It’s important to practice while your mother’s out of the room, because the white curtains seem sad but they are not sad and you are the happiest when she slow dances to Love Me Like You Used To with your ghost dad who isn’t dead but Tanya Tucker’s voice makes him seem so. It’s just you now and your mother’s sadness down the hall, a comfort not at all strange when the bright pink of her room is only seven steps away and there’s nothing safer than this distance between your own feet, even when toes must open even when aunts and cousins remind them to keep stride after you’d found your dad’s hands closing in on her neck and sounds came out of her you’d never heard as he asked her questions the way he would the dog while holding the dog’s nose in her own accident. Even now you wonder how he got your mother on her knees like that, her feet usually firm and close together once he said the army taught him how to kill someone in thirteen seconds which is how you learned what kill meant. Already you’re wondering why she and her friends want to talk only about beasts which is how you think of men in fairytales but no giant boot shakes the hall tonight and your legs are best at leaping far apart from floorboards that you and your mother can stand on and you’ll never love her more than on these nights when neither of you know what’s missing.


K. Iver (pronoun indifferent) was born in Mississippi. They are a Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University and the Art Editor for The Southeast Review. Their poems have appeared in Boston Review and BOAAT.

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