Tanaquil Le Clercq in Her Wheelchair
Balanchine’s principal dancer with the liquid spine
walked on toe-tips and nicotine. But in Copenhagen,
paralyzed by polio, she caught her crippled reflection
in an iron lung.
Twenty-seven years old, she could make a faun grovel
with her whiplash kick and hip-wrench swivel. For
forty-three more, both legs, half an arm paralyzed.
Yet her hands still fly
through her old roles. Teaching young dancers in Harlem
she catches herself in their bodies’ lithe mirrors.
Step, lift, breathe, hold. You are one, resurgent. Now bow.
Accept your flowers.
This poem was inspired by two photographs of the dancer. View the first one at 45.21 (Tanaquil LeClercq Teaching at the Dance Theater of Harlem, 1970s) and the second one, click here (Afternoon of a Faun, with Francisco Moncion, photography by Frederick Melton (USA) 1953.)
Derek Webster’s Mockingbird was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best poetry debut in Canada. He received an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and is the founding editor of Maisonneuve Magazine. His second book National Animal appears in Spring 2024. He lives in Montreal and Toronto. Visit Derek here: www.derekwebsterwriter.com
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: