Stages

So much of music I feel as space

like Brahms’ Fourth Symphony
in my radio’s thin voice, inside
my kitchen—my small apartment

becomes the backdrop of Kudelka’s ballet
The End, Sabina Alleman sweeping mightily
across the stage of the War Memorial Opera House

where I’d snuck in the back to watch.
Giggling, leapfrog, and long lazy summers
gone, I’d traded them in to become

a ballerina, half sylph, half animale
enchanting the space, devouring it
to feed a ravenous audience.

I was too short, the line of my leg
wrong. And I was always a beat behind
the music’s swell, arriving

late for the spin or leap invented
to dazzle, or dizzy.
“Don’t dream, Annushka!”

After all those years of striving, it’s not
the great dark stages I remember most, nor their
labyrinthine underbellies

but rather the pure, airy studios. At night
I’d go back to their empty volumes
made even emptier by their mirrored walls

and in those chapels of prayerful repetition,
endlessly spurred on by my double,
I’d try to rouse from my dream of grace

into sheer exuberance—what I’d seen
on the others’ faces as they vaulted
into space, given over to their bodies.

But the music always drew me
to a place inside myself
in search of perfect stillness.

I switch off the radio now. Books
wait quietly in their many-cornered stacks,
and the page before me.

A different dance begins to stir
once everything else is still. Music
unravels into words, reinventing space

across the great dark stage within.