by Sarah Nemcik

Come in strutting like you own the place.

You've seen recitals before but the thought of IT

still makes your mouth a gravel road. A stone's lodged

in your throat so air comes in gasps

and a mist must be swept from your brow, arms, and back.

An hour to curtain call. It is time to change who

you are. Slip on soft stains gliding like fish through water

or glittering sandpaper costumes grating

skin. Enticing lips, dramatic eyes, and elegant hair.

Now you are a ready and the time draws near.

Behind curtains that rustle and stir

the audience is murmuring. Lungs search

for breath while your nerves are on fire with anticipation

and your heart becomes a hummingbird.

Soft lights flick on behind the black curtains.

The stage's arms open before you in a mother's warm embrace.

Hit your mark, take a deep breath, and wait….

The curtain pulls back, revealing the yawning, blackened

audience, now hushed. Wait for it, wait for it,

BAM! Boom. Boom. Boom. Rhythm explodes

and lights stare at you. Hips hit the beat while fingers twist

and stretch, grabbing for the sound. Slide,

extending foot, toes pointing at the dancer

next to you. Coordinate with the others, round and round then stop.

Suddenly silence, it is over. Roaring rips

your ears as you exit stage right.

Your body trembles, a mini earthquake. An oil slick

covers you and yet eyes shine with self pride.

Another group prepares to go; hours

later stage and seats are empty tombs.

One more dance completed and stored,

in your muscles, in your memory, in your soul.