Elizabeth Muscari

On Stone Street in Fayetteville, Arkansas

In August, spider lilies burst through a yard.  
Open-jawed bulbs, hot-cherry, their long legs reach

for me. Once, not far from here, I danced a ballet variation 
in their color. Nights I rehearsed with my tutu bleeding  

through the studio windows,  shining into the abysmal lot  
in which, somewhere, my father watched in his car.  
Who noticed me? Contorting like a doll on fire. 

Nights I hurled my tour jetè over and over across the floor
until my body surrendered my body mid-air.  

Nights I spent falling with pinned vision. 
Act like it didn’t happen, my ballet teacher would say.  

Nights my satin shoes bloomed with blood, 
red blossoming across my sternum, my spine a jutted stem. 
In the yard, the spider lilies bow thin in flimsy grass, 

as if the owners don’t want them and want to choke them out.  
A sign reads: don’t touch––poisonous.  

What are they reaching for if not for my touch?  
Nights, after bruising tired, my father would drive  

me home beneath a mangled sky. I watched white limbs stretch  
through the sunroof, how they twisted like blades tearing 
into more dark, following me as we shivered  

down the highway, where I asked myself  
what I’d do if I fell on stage, and decided I wouldn’t.  

Elizabeth Muscari is a poet living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Arkansas. Her poetry most recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, Gulf Coast, The Texas Review, among others. Her poetry is the recipient of the 2022 Felix Christopher McKean Award and 2023 Walton Family and Carolyn F. Walton Cole Poetry Fellowship. For more, visit her website at www.elizabethmuscari.com.