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Maria Berardi


Grace is when you have to, you can.
Consider the toe-dancer

(what sort of punitive arcane ritual is that?
what kind of culture made her?)

careening on her tenth pirouette, lungs bursting,
little stars of oxygen deprivation behind her eyes,

and her pitiful, rickety ankle bones.
She should stop now.

But she tilts on for two more and roaring
applause from the beast:

that is grace, by any definition.
Consider her toes, coffined in satin,

little cadavers, cadence-slaves;
off-stage, scarcely able to walk.

They are where grace really resides
(and the armor of her abdomen,

board-hard, that holds it all together,
that shelters and shields her core).
Maria Berardi's poems appear online, in print, in university journals, meditation magazines, newspapers, and art galleries. She can be reached at
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