Bailarina, Toti O’Brien

Dale Champlin, Silver Shoe 2, Collage, 2021



They kept her for long hours
standing on a small chair
so her eyes would be level
with theirs, pupil into pupil.
They asked her all the questions
for which she had no replies
secrets you never told her.
“No,” she murmured, “no,”
meekly enduring the torture.
But later she had her fill.
Briskly, she grabbed her skirt
at the edges, both sides. She
held it up and started her mad
zapateo. The skirt swell
became large like a tent
under which four campesinos
could hide from the farmer,

though it was never worn
in a field. Four boys on the run
could abide, quietly breathing
the damp warmth of no secrets.
Skirt of heaven and hell.
Matrix of all secrets.

Toti O’Brien


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