are dancing now.

Caught in the blaze of footlights, tutus
float like cotton candy foam. Underpinnings, gripped
by tights and braces, start to lift. A cane,
wrapped in pink ribbon, jerks
and inches forward. Then a turn
each girl will execute
at her own pace.

Legs fettered,
they have formed a line
that holds, even though
unevenly. Their limbs are harnessed
to a strange, unsubtle grace that still
is grace. Mired in dark water, feet
approximate design. And so, the tale of love lost,
kingdoms missed, black magic on the wing.
When, at recital’s end, they stop—
dazed by the lights, cygnets droop.
A single hand goes slack,
cane dropped.

All blink.
Daughters, facing forward,
look to where
fingers cup a mouth
to shout


All rise.
One swan
is straightening.
Heads nod assent. Love gained,
hands clap one unpropped daughter up.