Elizabeth Smither

Elizabeth Smither’s latest collection of poems, Night Horse, was published earlier this year by Auckland University Press.

Elizabeth Smither


Ballet and sawhorse


The house was being added to: one
widened room, new wider windows.
I held onto a saw horse to practise ballet.

My hand fell down to touch the beam
the legs, apart, seemed like pliés
I ground my heels into curls of sawdust.

Over and over like the new planks’ dust
I repeated the foundation exercises
until my muscles felt like hammers.

Just barre work. A few tendus and port de bras.
There was no centre of the room to come into
just planks piled up, awaiting tomorrow

when the hammers would begin again. I took care
not to step on silver nails, spilled from a tin
or stub my toes on a chisel.

And then, after a sweating hour, I relinquished
the rough-cut barre and lay beside it
gasping to breathe naturally. The motes

swam above me in a golden light
my sweat dried and dampened the floor
and had fine dust added to it.

‘Enough,’ my mother called. ‘Time to eat.’
And up I rose like a stiff trestle
and touched the saw horse in benediction.