What happened to the 12th dancing princess (circa 1946)

What happened to the 12th dancing princess (circa 1946) – Jeana Jorgensen

You won me, went to war, returned and wanted your wife back:
wanted to fill my nights with the press of your body
and fill our home with your medals and your presence.
But while you were gone I filled my own nights:
from factory to dance hall I danced with no man,
would not begin again, not after twirling midnights in women’s arms
til our shoes were tattered—and I wasn’t about to start now.
You put a stop to it the only way you knew how
but the seed would not take in my body worn thin
by wartime rations and sleepless evenings dancing.
Shouts, stares, and locks couldn’t keep me from spinning
when they were imposed by you, but an errant wife
who’s a deviant, well… lock her up before Valium was
a gleam in its maker’s eye and see if they’ll give her lithium
here or electroshock therapy there, make her behave
like a woman should, better a shorn head and straitjacket
than a wife who strays, won’t obey.
No more nights of dancing: replaced by fever dreams
of descent underground, silver branches scratching me
as I flee, my mangled feet carrying me toward
my beloved who dances without me across water,
on tiles of gold and ash, but I can never reach her,
can never cross: the soupy fog clutches me
tight, the medicine holds me here between our worlds
and maybe someday girls like me can dance their shoes
to pieces on floors that don’t pierce them with wedding rings and pills–
the girls you made sure I’ll never know, they will know me:
I will die here but my canvas-clad body will be one pair
of worn out shoes that propel lithe feet forward,
forward in time, always toward each other,
until we can clasp hands once again:
those soft and strong hands reaching for me,
waiting, my dancing loves.

Jeana Jorgensen teaches at Butler University and at a variety of dance studios; when not teaching, she writes poetry, short fiction, blog posts, and academic articles based on her folklore research. She is a Rhysling Award nominee and has published in Liminality as often as possible, as well as in Strange Horizons, Glittership, The Future Fire, and other journals.