Bolshoi Ballet Tours the West:
A Cold War Poem
The word “defection” floats in the air.
Sotto voce. The ability to hear whispers
is every child’s superpower.
I am a tiny balletomane. My hand
fully encapsulated by my father’s, we move
through a theatre of older women in beaded gowns.
Strange magic lives behind the Iron Curtain:
Nureyev, the white crow.
Plisetskaya, dying swan, Odette/Odile, the feathered
captives of a nuclear wizard.
By the age of seven, I imagine “the Soviet Union”
is a cage filled with white birds and pointe shoes.
“The Cold War” is a battle of ice crystals.
Madame Semenova is my ballet teacher.
Sarcasm drips tart from her lips.
She carries a long black stick,
pokes at our legs and shoulders,
often tells the story of another jealous ballerina
pouring ground glass into Madame’s slippers,
how blood stained the pale pink satin
while the audience watched.
Her bourrées were perfect.
There are A-bomb drills in my elementary school
at least once a week. Children can be taught to move
like baby swans in winter,
in single file with surprising precision,
to line up alphabetically in hallways,
to sit on cold granite floors,
spine to wall, head beneath hands,
tucked between knees.
When our parents find us,
we will be incinerated
into carefully organized piles of ash.
Gabrielle Langley lives and works in Houston, Texas. Her poems have been published in a variety of literary reviews, including Panoply, New Plains Review, Wild Word, Houston Poetry Fest Anthology, and ARTlines. Her debut collection of poetry, Azaleas on Fire, was released in March of 2019. Ms. Langley was also a spearhead and co-editor of Red Sky: poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (2016). Additional information about this poet can be found at www.gabriellelangley.com .