For Jamie Moore

I have to believe even your death was graceful.
That you lifted yourself into the backseat
effortlessly as your feet in first position raised onto pointe,
toes careful not to disturb the gear set in park.
That you crawled over the empty prescription bottles
to enter the trunk through the rear, folded yourself there,
wrapped your body around the blackness like a partner
who made you weightless in that perfect last ascent
before the stage went dark, before the curtain dropped.

I still watch you dance to Gershwin on VHS,
the year Miss Lisa themed our recital
An American in Paris. I was eight,
and never missed a performance.
How beautiful you were at seventeen,
your blonde hair pulled half-up
and loosely raised in an arc, long legs
flowing with each lithe movement.
I marveled at you with the same wonderment
as the glass ballerina I watched twirl
from my ceiling fan, believing
there could be such pure beauty
to comfort me in the dark before sleep.

And now, I wonder what hid behind
that perfect smile, what weight sunk inside
each spirited step? How a light body can become,
through the years, possessed from within
by a cumbersome force; how one would choose,
finally, to force the darkness out,
to free one’s shadow from the fixed stone wall.

When I think of you now, I need your hair
framing your ice-pale face, your knees
cradled balletically to your chest—I need
to keep you here like this, before
my thoughts turn to what happens when
I open the trunk to find you: stiffened,
bent after three days moldering
in 103 degrees. Face hidden,
your only privacy, as your body lies
exposed; your secret, here confessed,
your unknown shame, unconcealed
too late behind a Chinese take-out
in a deserted Florida parking lot.

In the end, you have to become
the lissome animal who slips unseen
to die in peace beneath the solitude
of the house, never making a sound—for how softly
you return, as any nimble creature
who makes herself scarce.


ERICA LEE BRAVERMAN received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon, and now lives in Eugene teaching English at a local community college. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in MiPOesias, Virginia Quarterly Review's Instapoetry Series, Paper Nautilus, and Blue Fifth Review. She is currently a finalist for a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.

One response to “Elegy For the Dancer Who Returns as the Night”

  1. Joyce B says:

    Thank you for this…Heartwrenching, and reality! Beautiful, aspiring Jamie… So sad. A familiar frequent theme with so many beautiful aspiring…

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