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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.

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