Michael Christian Martinez: The Wounded Dancer (Olympic Poetry)
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.