“I Cannot Dance Upon My Toes”

I took ballet for one short season, thinking it was something I might be good at. I was 100% wrong. There’s really not much more to the story. Like Emily, I admire the ability and the beauty of those who can dance, but it wasn’t for me. In her poem, she suggests that her simplistic, solitary lifestyle brings her as much joy as she imagines a ballet dancer has, lithely spinning and jumping so beautifully and gracefully across the stage.

Emily and I share a disdain for societal expectations of what a woman should say, do, or be. For me the only answer is anything she damn well pleases. Emily didn’t want to do any of the typical “normal” things women of her day were expected to do. She is said to have found hosting/entertaining and small talk painful and most especially didn’t want to become a wife. In a letter to her friend from school, Abiah Root, she wrote “God keep me from being a householder.”

This poem started a couple of different ways, listing things I could and couldn’t do, but ended up just being a fun little flirty poem directed at a love interest.

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