Sunflowers

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I like sunflowers because
my mother likes sunflowers,
and her mother liked sunflowers,

tall and slim like dancers twirling
their yellow tutus. That’s an imperfect
analogy; dancers don’t wear tutus

on their heads. But dancers are
imperfect. I know because I am
my mother’s daughter, and

my grandmother’s grand daughter,
two priestesses of the danse.
Each arabesque and Fouette en tourant

a prayer to the God of perfection,
and even though they couldn’t see him
they knew he was there because he sent

his only son Baryshnikov to spread
the gospel. My mother believed.
Believed so hard she would smack me

if I spilled my orange juice on the plastic
table cloth or wore mismatched socks
to school. She knew that pain is the path

to perfection, learned it in grand mother’s
ballet classes. When the girls goofed off,
grand mother would scold mother. She knew

it would bring the entire class back
to first position. My mother learned
perfection requires sacrifice, so

she allowed herself to be sacrificed
time and again because grand
mother insisted it had to be done,
her devotion to perfection so unapologetic

it didn’t matter how perfection was got
as long as it was gotten. I am imperfect.
I never took to the barre or learned to pray

for grace. I could never believe
in a God that punished girls for wearing
combat boots and painting their nails black,

or claimed that pain is somehow holy.
I, with my smirking mouth, sarcastic tongue,
and thinly veiled self-esteem issues,

am what generations of perfection lead to –
a hiccup, a glitch in the Matrix, a back
so tired of carrying the weight of all that

perfection, all it can do is break.

 

Photo by Annie Fischinger Fotografie

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