George HS Singer
Another Way to Grace
Sister, you practiced a hard balance those years
that at long last a perfect arabesque or pirouette
might bring our disappointed mother near
to being pleased with you so maybe grace
might shine a little, maybe even release you
by bringing a glimmer to mother’s shadowed face.
Out of a boy’s narrow throat I mocked your
pliés, and jettés and hated how the Nutcracker
returned yearly like head colds and Yom Kippur.
(They made me knot a silk tie around my neck.)
I hardly could find you or see you in the patterned lines
of nervous girls afraid they’d trip or forget their steps.
One year they put you all in a drab rat suit
the next, red pantaloons and blue vests
and later they let you dance in toe shoes and a tutu.
Our damaged mother would smirk and complain
that you wobbled as you spun and flubbed your jetté.
In old age with knees and hips that always ache,
she needs you for her aspirin and some company.
A bit addled and forgetful, she’s a little kinder now
as twice a day you walk her nervous Maltese.
You tell me in the mounting hierarchy of pain
your divorce was worse than father’s death
and you say you’ve learned to laugh anyway.
I see you’ve earned another kind of poise,
a weathered stamina and something generous,
as if you found another way to grace while I have stayed away.