A Desperate Dance
by Rebecca Peakes
When I was ten, I taught myself the
Pas de valse by listening to the rain.
Its drops beat out the perfect rhythm.
The three-step timing drummed itself
Onto the front porch overhang above
My head where I stood, eyes shut, listening,
My toes in my red rainboots tapping.
I performed the waltz step perfectly at
My next ballet lesson.
When I was twelve, I figured the pas de chat
Was self-explanatory: step of the cat.
I watched my neighbor’s Persian,
With his long black fur, chase and
Pounce on the autumn leaves that
Cartwheeled across my backyard. Up . . .
And down, up . . . and down. I copied
The pattern of his paws with my feet.
When I was fourteen, the oak tree swaying,
Lurching, brushing its leaves against
My house as the wind swirled and thunder
Rolled, I modeled a port de bra, the sharp
Lightning striking out sauté after sauté.
That night, I choreographed a piece
Today, at eighteen, I turned on the news
To find “Global Temperature Rising,
Climate Crisis Immediate.” All my life,
The Earth has been pounding out
A tempo, shaking and vibrating from
Its core to the balls of my feet. But lately,
It seizes me with double-time pirouettes,
Wild fouetté turns, leap after leap after leap—
Gathering heat. It makes sense that,
With each step I take, this planet’s dance
Becomes more desperate, ripples up
My spine like a flame, flushes my cheeks
With red blossoms, builds a crescendo
Of a plea that goes unheard: