By Linda Collins
Backstage with Balkanski Circus Dancers
They lounge in camp chairs, iridescent brows
shimmering as if the spotlight followed
them here. Feathered in bright hues –
pink, purple, peach, aqua –
fringed bras, tufted tiara crests,
boas draped over elegant, crossed legs.
Like Degas’ ballerinas portrayed
wearing frilled costumes splayed
over benches as they stretch,
adjust stockings and shoes —
while they go about the business
of not dancing. Yet
observed by privileged patrons
as I watch these dancers,
who don’t so much ignore as dismiss me
while they chat among themselves
one spreading wide her wings –
or rather, her arms –
describing some large thought
that has nothing to do
with dancing or birds.
Letter to Louisville
Summer nights relieved of heat.
Weeps of willows. Fireflies.
A trace of honey-almond phlox.
And I am back there playing flashlight tag,
crouched in darkness
beneath chokeberry branches,
hugging my own thumping chest.
I want the boy wielding the flashlight
not to find me. Or maybe
I want him to find me.
What I do know is, his sly smile nettles
like the branches prickling my neck.
Another summer, another boy.
I have maneuvered to the seat next to his
at the Vogue’s midnight show.
We sneak sips of smuggled bourbon,
make wisecracks under the screen’s
flickering gloom. I wish
for his hand to reach for mine
but when he drapes his arm
across my shoulder,
I startle like a fawn.
August. Our canoes slice
the Ohio River’s current.
Three boys, three girls, we paddle
to Six Mile Island’s far side
where a knotted rope dangles
from a high alder branch.
We take turns. Pull the rope-end
up the embankment, grasp
its coarse braided strands.
Swing out over the murky inlet pool —
gliding, careless, the only hard part,
knowing just when to let go.
During the 1970s, Linda Jackson Collins worked as a book shelver for the Louisville, KY public library. More recently, she has served as Editor for The Sacramento Poetry Center’s journal, Tule Review. Her own poems have appeared in The Cape Rock, Walrus, American River Review, Late Peaches, Poeming Pigeon, and elsewhere. She writes in Carmichael, CA.