Dancer’s Love Letter, After You’re Gone

By Audrey Lee

Dancer’s Love Letter

Here is how to love us. We know you love
the cinnamon sweet arch of our secondhand spines, you love
the tendons that sculpt the charcoal outlines of our legs. You do this already
while we build ourselves out of bone, marrow and mesh.
We know you love the hot blown glass our eyes are fused by. Vous aimez le ballet.
You love the ballet,
chiffon, silk and satin, they tear at the seams with shards of glass imprinting in the fabric
as we break through walls, weak floorboards.
Your love fills us up like we could eat you, we could grind our decayed molars
from cigarettes and gum. When we cannot eat anymore,
when we stare at the ceilings of our studio apartments while our heavy limbs
make sturdy imprints on the mattress on the floor. You love us when we are tied
together with ribbons, corset buttons and mother of pearl combs.
Our broken toes and bruised feet ache like standing in the rain too long but you love us in
baby socks, pirouetting into your open arms to wrap your fingers around our bound waists,
run your palms over our hair pulled from the scalp and step
on those bruised toes, crush them, kill us.
Kill us with rose thorns in the bouquets left to die on the stage after the ballet.
Love us with all the will of a rose to keep living.

“Ballet Stage Lighting” © zaimoku_woodpile (

After You’re Gone

After you’re gone, I watched you with eyes
the color of syrup boiling in vats floating with dead leaves
until you dipped below the line on the horizon
like the sun that afternoon.

I’m not ready anymore. It’s autumn and
dead leaves bury me. My limbs are tied;
insects clinging before winter kills them, they
coat the inside of my mouth as so I cannot speak.

As so, you are gone, and the sun sets in the afternoon now. As so,
we used to kiss until my lips were bruised like the color
of crushed fruit in the summer,
Killed now, or clinging still, I cannot kiss anymore.

No one wants to kiss a girl whose mouth is filled with six legged insects,
crawling along her tongue,
a girl who is bruised. After you’re gone,
I am clinging, ready to be killed like a fruit ready for picking.

I watched you with eyes
the color of bottled syrup at the market
in the crosshair of the setting sun.

Audrey Lee is an 18-year-old senior at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. She is a 22-time winner of the Scholastic Art and Writing awards and the winner of the 2016 DeSales University Poetry Contest. She edits her school literary magazine, The Epolitan, and has attended the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop and Ithaca College Writers Institute. You can read her writing in The Claremont Review and Rookie Magazine.

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