two poems

by Katie Berger

Ballet Recital

The night I gave my sequined heart
leotard to the spotlight the tornado
tripped the sirens tights kinked up and down
my grapefruit knees me a spackled swan between
the girl who didn’t know right
from left and the one who ran
away to Broadway or Omaha the parents
cleared the theater rows like freight
cars a slow bleed to the basement
and the decommissioned bust of Lincoln
Juicy Fruit stuck up his left nostril so tight
the custodians whispered of firecrackers

a why is a carnation after the fact
why bobby pins pinged to the floor
like sonar why the boys class in their Dick Tracy
coats and hats felt the need to touch backstage
our satin cuffs why the wrong of it rang
crisp as lunar orbit why enough hairspray
was never enough I memorized the steps
I could have thrown the dittoed
purple handout the whole Disney
of the routine into the twister itself
and survived until at least junior high


The Warmer City

At home the neon fried the night
in the name of abandoned hatcheries
and payday loans. I shed myself
of wings and the grosgrain ribbon, gold,

that mothers wove into every braid for dances
and demolition derbies. I learned the lists
of the Greek naiads, the Canadian
football teams and told my teachers

I would not be free unless I knew
the name of every street
in a warmer city, the city a winnow
of towels and jewelry to earn

the Castelar and Cuming. I sleep
on the floor, bus lines rumble
up through my spine, the nervous
system unspools the numbers
stations’ crackled panic
lineage, the umbrella ribs
of constellations the sailors
once followed. I memorized those, too.

Katie Berger holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and currently lives in Nebraska, where she works in public relations at Northeast Community College. She is the author of Time Travel: Theory and Practice and Swans, both from Dancing Girl Press. Other works have appeared in Cherry Tree, Sugared Water, foothill, and others.

Artwork by: Thomas Hawk