I want to stand on my toes
like you do, Mommy.
I want to dance like you do.
I want to be a ballerina.
Looking down at her daughter
Mommy smiles and doesn’t say:
Do you want my black nails?
Purpling flesh, growths galore?
Broken bones and stress fractures?
My elegant pink silk shoes
hide a battery of injuries.
Corns develop sinuses, become ulcers.
Nails thicken with hard skin underneath.
A muted rainbow of painkillers just
to make it through Swan Lake.
Plantar fasciitis from overuse.
Neuromas, burning pains from
calloused heel to mangled toes.
Nerves swollen, permanently scarred.
Achilles tendonitis even but always,
always with a smile.
She doesn’t say these things.
Instead, they dance together.
The mother holds the daughter’s
weight and saves the bloody truth
for other days in later years.