Kat Cameron | OPEN FOURTH

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Edgar Degas, 1878-81

i.

Open fourth—relaxed but defiant
……..chin up, shoulders back
…………….fingers intertwined behind her back

…………….the child stands in a glass vitrine
……..on a wooden base
exposed to the exhibition’s gaze.

Only fourteen, composed of scraps—
……..rope, clay, human hair
…………….and pigmented beeswax

…………….cotton bodice
……..scanty muslin tutu
ribbons and satin slippers. A petit rat

of the Paris Opera. Marie van Goethem:
……..mother a laundress
father a tailor, sister also a dancer.

ii.

Fined, then fired for missing
……..practice, she vanished.

iii.

……..Ethereal ballerinas
Giselle or the dying swan—
……..trained in the dance’s discipline.

Degas’s little monkey girls
……..mannequins
posed without question

……..for a misogynist.
“I show them without their coquetry—
……..animals cleaning themselves.”

iv.

When the heirs found the statue
……..in the artist’s studio, they
…………….commissioned twenty-two bronzes.

A form of immortality—
……..statues in the National Gallery
…………….the Met, the MusĂ©e d’Orsay.

Multiple bronzed dancers, dressed in
……..full tutus of silk, linen, cotton
…………….fragile as a girl’s visions.

Young girls aren’t told
……..of the foyer de la danse
…………….where ancient abonnĂ©s

propositioned girls of thirteen—
……..the age of majority
…………….changed from eleven in 1563.

 


Kat Cameron (she/her) is the author of three books. Her second collection of poetry, Ghosts Still Linger (University of Alberta Press, 2020), won the High Plains Book Award for poetry in 2021 and was a finalist for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including CV2, Geist, Grain, New Forum, Prairie Fire, and Room. She lives on Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton.