By Nicole Itkin
Desire. Loss. And then what? The poem weaves those ideas together.
My heart bounds up, up, up, contrary to ballet shoes that make their start simply (simply! ha!) by flitting across a stage. No. No. Here, the girl leaps across the stage, the boy a half step behind, the two in a dance they’ll never meet in, a dance they could have met in.
They step back, tie silks around their legs and, with a tug, soar up into the air. She spins, arms crowning her back. He spins, arms crowning the audience. Watching. She yanks. (Did she mean to?) He unspools downward, legs almost bare. He grabs. (Did he mean to?) We’re left. With bare legs. And dangling silk. (Timing, after all, keeps us up. Simple. How simple, then, is it to fall?)
No. They never made it into the air. Never, at least, for more than a leap or two. There they are: on the ground grounded. Their steps are soft, furiously so, on the moonlight-dusted stage. Up. Above.
Above their heads, the roof has slid away with a groan, the night sky in with a sigh. On its side, newly toppled, the roof leaks rain like perfume, blending into the charcoal backdrop behind it. The backdrop takes it in with heavy resignation. Happy? no. Determined? to stay still despite whatever goes on before it.
I look at it all, the stage, the sky, the rain, and the rain and my heart pumping there in the night in the sky, in the midst of its flight.
With the sudden certainty of a (previously crouching) breeze leaping up and setting off an alarm in the night, I know. Opportunities don’t last long, never too long, my heart knows that, knows it well. And so, my heart, making patterns and swirls, climbs softly and then outside.
My heart is brave (they—the ambiguous—tell me). But. What? My heart? my heart? it’s just running! Where from? Where to? Hell if I knew. I wonder, often, who I would be if I had the strength to not lie, at least to myself, to me.
And then, just then: one wrist. Then another. Mine. Moving without me, pulling my feet forward. And I know. I know I’m not in control anymore. I push, I pull, I scream, and shout, trying to reel, reel, reel my limbs back to me.
There’s a hand. On my shoulder. Keeping me here. Under the rain. Soaked, fidgeting, here.
I stand still.
Girls Write Now On the Other Side of Everything: The 2023 Anthology
Do you know what it’s like to communicate with your family across a salty ocean’s divide? Do you want the sun and moon to enter your home with stories written in embers? Do you seek voices that will punctuate the darkness? Welcome to the other side of everything. It’s the other side of silence, the other side of childhood, the other side of hate, the other side of indifference, it’s the other side of sides, where the binary breaks down. It’s a new paradigm, a destination, a different perspective, a mindset, a state of openness, the space between the endless folds in your forehead, hopes for tomorrow, and reflections on the past. This anthology of diverse voices is an everything bagel of literary genres and love songs, secrets whispered in the dark of night, conversations held with ancestors under the sea.
The poem is based off of a compilation of moments—some that were short, others that were prolonged, some that existed in only one sliver of time, and others I carried with me (and analyzed) until they didn’t feel like they were mine anymore. One morning over the summer, I opened a Google Doc and started writing. I didn’t go in with a clear idea of what I wanted to say. It took a while, but, sentence by sentence, it started to form. And then it took a different form, and then another. And here it is now.
Nicole Itkin is a high school junior in New York. She loves acting and writing, possibly because both allow her to fling words together in an attempt to tell a story and to tell it well. When she isn't staring at something with writing on it (whether it’s her own notebook, a published novel or a play), she is most likely thinking about new ways to incorporate tofu in her diet, learning other languages or traveling.