Becoming Giselle: Poem in Two Acts

by Denisa Vítová


‘Go crazy,’ he begs me, unfolds me –
the arch, the heel, the tip of my foot;
I’d crack if I could.

plié, relevé

One, two, three, four –
I lost count
of days, of years,


of how many times
I had my heart muscle stretched too far.
‘Open up,’ he shouts,

fouetté, pirouette

‘your chest, your light,
let the walls tumble down
as you forget who you are.’

glissade, assemblé

I can try
but a girl like me cannot shine
without blinding everyone.


‘Go crazy,’ he makes me
strip off my layers, a painful task:
if one cannot break a body,

jeté, battement

surely one can break the mind
until all you are is a hostage
to your fractured heart.

arabesque, attitude

‘Just breathe;
don’t fake it,
make it real.’

á la second, soutenir

I kick, I scream;
I stay silent, swollen with words
I chose to eat.

tendu, cou-de-pied

‘Go crazy,’ he breaks me,
takes me apart: my crumbling
shoulders, my aching arms.

turn out, turn in

Spinning in circles,
swallowing my guilt,
under the rug I sweep my sins.

en dehors, en dedans

‘Until you forget who you are.’
Forgive them, yes, I think I might
as he straightens me out,

pas de bourré, tombé, valse

puts me back together now:
wings, ribbons,
no glue, no cast.