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

Titled Storm.


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:

Save me. 

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