The Ice Mannequin

We, the chorus line, couldn’t breathe,
feared ripping a seam on every stretch.
When a skater’s mother volunteered
to make the costumes, no one said no.
But she was a theatre seamstress,
who didn’t consider that we had to move.
We had to run through a dance sequence,
stand at the back of the iced stage
and smile, constrained by costumes.
It was no better off ice as I changed
into other hand-me-downs a neighbour
had discarded, out of fashion and out of time.

Feeling just as breathless and restrained,
I dreamed of choosing my own clothes,
seeing a reflection that might look like me.
But my money was saved for driving lessons
and, if I bought clothes, my mother mocked.
My favourite skating dress had travelled
to the Olympics on someone else.
The colours didn’t suit me. I stuck to black
which merged with the rubber matting,
left me fading into a chorus line.

Emma Lee’s recent collection is Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, UK, 2015). The Significance of a Dress is forthcoming from Arachne Press (UK). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), reviews for The Blue Nib, The High Window, The Journal, London Grip, Sabotage Reviews, and blogs at​

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