Ballet and Sawhorse

Elizabeth Smither

The house was being added to: one
widened room, new wider windows.
I held onto the sawhorse to practice ballet.

My hand fell down to touch the beam
the legs, apart, seemed like pliés
I ground my heels into curls of sawdust.

Over and over like the new planks’ dust
I repeated my foundation exercises
until my muscles felt like hammers.

Just barre work. A few tendus and port de bras.
There was no center of the room to come into
just planks piled up, awaiting tomorrow

when the hammers would begin again. I took care
not to step on silver nails, spilled from a tin
or stub my toes on a chisel.

And then, after a sweating hour, I relinquished
the rough-cut barre and lay beside it
gasping to breathe naturally. The motes

swam above me in a golden light
my sweat dried and dampened the floor
and had fine dust added to it.

“Enough,” my mother called. “Time to eat.”
And up I rose, like a stiff trestle,
and touched the sawhorse in benediction.

Elizabeth Smither is the author of many collections of poetry, as well as novels and short stories. In 2018, her collection Night Horse won the poetry category of the 50th Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Originally published:
January 1, 2019

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