Michael Christian Martinez: The Wounded Dancer (Olympic Poetry)

By Kwame Dawes
For skater Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines

We skaters arrive wounded, limping, the aches—
beneath the skin you will see the terrible
brutality of what we must do to our bodies.

Ice, we know, is cold, a sharp pain of brittle
light—but ice is hard, it will not give,
it bites back, before melting sardonically.

I leap, torque and flow, my mind whispers,
flight is lifting the weight of the world,
And there are no white rose petals to land upon.

Here in these humid islands, the mall owner
is kind to build a rink, but he thinks the ice is smooth
as glass, slick, even. He would not know

the bubbles and fissures of the uneasy ice,
the physics of crystals, and the way the ankles
twist and contort to hold a smooth line—

come closer, turn off the muzak, listen
to the crunch and yelp of the ice breaking
away against the steel’s bite, and hear the pop

of my bones and the wheeze of all tendons
before the leap—hear the deep grunt
of anticipation as I lift, the body already

alert to the blow of my landing—and only
for that small moment, of clothes flapping,
in the miracle of the second turn; only

then, when the dizzying of lights spinning,
colors hurled at me, in the second of lift
and the yank downwards, only then

can you call my body smiling—then comes
the brute ache, of landing, splintering ice,
ankle howling, such painful, painful beauty.


  1. Batang-genyo-Alah Eh

    Sa panayam ng Kababayan TV kay Michael CM noong Nob.2013, nalaman ko na ang tulang ito na handog ni K. Dawes ay isang makatotohanang
    paghugis ng isang Olympic Ice skater at di malayo sa naranasan ni Ginoong Michael Martinez sa pagsasanay ng talino, physical na pangangatawan at determinasyong laban sa kanya sarili makamit lang ang tagumpay at ang hamon bilang isang atleta pang daigdigan.