I’m Only Dancing

By Chris Ketchum

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At ten, I meet myself in the mirror of my sister’s vanity, squeezed into the tiny corset of her pale blue dress, Cinderella’s image printed on the breast like a brooch. My little-boy pecs puff out like cleavage. The tulle skirt brushes against my thighs, rising above the knee, billowing around my Fruit-of-the-Looms as I prance down the staircase to the dining room where my mother lights a candle before dinner. She laughs to see me skip across the hardwood floor, turning and twirling on the ball of my socked foot—and when she does, I know I want to keep her laughing. I’m not sure why, but I speak in a higher voice, with a lisp, and she laughs harder, and, as I’m preening, brushing my cheeks with the back of my hand, leaping into the air like the hippos in Fantasia, I notice the tears— how they run down the corner of her nose, wetting her upper lip. I don’t know why she’s crying—maybe I’m really that funny. So I keep dancing.

Chris Ketchum is a poet from northern Idaho. He is the Curb Center Creative Writing Fellow at Vanderbilt University, where he has served as a poetry editor for Nashville Review. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Dunes Review, Five Points, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere.

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