Death Metal Ballet

Justin Holiday

Dancers’ feet raise, toes pressing
the stage, bearing a hell
that could drive through plywood.
The growls echo like teeth hitting linoleum
and scattering as the bodies control themselves,
each twist a chance
to tear a ligament; it is worse
to forget the pirouette than to feel
sweat forming inside the slippers
until the foot slides, the ankle snaps.

Drums pound to the beat of cardiac arrest
as the dancers count faster than fingers
reaching toward the closest hand.
They feel as if nails pierce their soles; inside
they feel alive like Christ
accepting the vinegar searing their tongues.
Their mouths dry out by the final act.

Each body embraces another,
the music propelling them to contort
limbs to welcome the brutality of ballet.
The grace is in their arms outstretched
as if to rip the thin fabric of the air
and touch a death light
until the music stops,
until the lights shine
before the audience, whose eyes now
see the sweat of these mundane gods.