Alexandra van de Kamp

Self-Portrait as the Ballet Dancer I Wanted to Be at Ten
by Alexandra van de Kamp

A body is a strange thing, a fiesta
of cells we take a lifetime to understand.
I once thought of my body as an aviary with birds
trapped inside, their lavender-tipped wings
plucking the glass. This thought had me looking up
apiary to make sure I did not place bees
inside of me. Nothing wrong with you, bees,
but your bodies can get drunk with stinging.

The generosity of skin: all day pinged
by the microscopic hammers of oxygen, the fox-
trot of rain, the sun’s silent gnawing.
A veritable circus tent of resilience skin is—
pulled taut over the tigers, cages and
dangling acrobats.

I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was ten—
all muscle twitch and lithe limb, all hair tied
into a disciplined knot at the top
of my head. But my body was more
tomboy then weeping willow, and
I soon learned my limbs could not weep
elegance nearly enough.

I’ve been reassembling myself
ever since: puzzling out the stars at night—
a silent movie with endless
closing credits–or a possum I recently drove by,
its chest a soft walnut cracked open
in the middle of the city street.

I like to tally what is around me,
store it in a book of fingerprint-
dusted questions tucked under
my arm, the one with freckles

trickling down it in the pattern
of a drowsy parakeet.

I’ve learned how my body works
over the years—at night, my torso
sleeps in the shape of a tear.
Don’t feed me broccoli or I won’t
be able to account
for the aftermath.
I have arthritis creeping
like a mini ice age through
the left knee, and my heart
types out a Morse code all its own
on days when the world overwhelms
with statistics, badly-parked cars,
and the curdled brow of someone’s opinion.

May the weather outside my door tomorrow
offer envelopes of new air. May I rejoice
in opening them.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 4.

Alexandra van de KampAlexandra van de Kamp is the Executive Director for Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s Writing Arts Center ( Her most recent books of poems are Kiss/Hierarchy (Rain Mountain Press 2016) and The Park of Upside-Down Chairs (CW Books 2010). She has also published several chapbooks, including A Liquid Bird Inside the Night (Red Glass Books 2015) and Dear Jean Seberg (2011), which won the 2010 Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. Her poems have been published in journals nationwide, such as The Cincinnati Review, Connecticut Review, The Texas Observer, Denver Quarterly, AMP, Washington Square, Tahoma Literary Review, and more. She has work forthcoming Great Weather for MEDIA. Her third book of poems is forthcoming from Next Page Press in 2022.

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