(for Barbara and Leslie)

He must have hated it
his day job
that foppish Englishman
chain-smoking rehearsal pianist
for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School
hated us
a class of prepubescent
girls in black leotards
and slippers from Malabar’s
some of us eager
most of us uninterested
in his music
his precious crotchets
and quavers

hammered out at a nod
from our dance mistress
Miss Jean McKenzie
with her bottle-red hair
made-up eyes
and take-no-prisoners tongue
erstwhile principal dancer
now teacher

in a second-floor studio
on Graham Avenue
redolent of chalk dust
sweat, and the funky smell
of cooking grease
from the across- the -street
All-You-Can-Eat Midtown Buffet.

I hated the long bus-ride
from the suburbs
to downtown
with my mother, hated
how in the sticky warmth
of a crowded bus
my skirt clung to my legs
when I rose to get off
off balance
even before the lesson.

Not my world:
plies and jetes, pas de chats
executed with pointed toes, arms
expressif, outstretched, curved
like an embrace

and those funhouse mirrors
floor to ceiling
that reflected
a sturdy body
better suited to sports
like skating, running

It was hard work
to hold a pose.

Unmoved by pleas and entreaties
my mother insisted
on my weekly date with Culture

For four years
I lived her dream,
learned grace
and poise
and perfect posture

At puberty
my resistance went underground

And we moved east

Our love became ferocious,

Now that my mother
has been dead for decades
and I am a mother, old
enough to be a grandmother
who’s to say
when to bend,
when to break
who needs
what from whom

In a recent photo
a candid shot
I am standing
shoulders straight
stomach flat
my hair pulled back, swept
up in a dancer’s knot.

Archer Lundy (aka Anne Archer) is a musician and poet whose 2021 publications include poetry in Entropy Magazine, The Eunoia Review, The Fiery Scribe Review, Autumn Sky Poetry, and Sledgehammer Lit. Her work is also scheduled to appear in Juke, In the Mood, and Ravens Quoth Press.