Ten minutes or so into a performance
of Mathew Bourne’s ballet at Sadler’s Wells,
with the principal alone spot lit en pointe,
there was a muffled shout off stage right
and a clatter as if a metal ladder
had been toppled. (Professional dance –
that always seems heartbreakingly effortless –
is always on the cusp of injury).
The music stopped suddenly, the curtains closed
– and, as the house lights came on, we were asked
to remain seated, assured the show would start
again soon. Voices rose like flocks of sparrows.
Mobiles were turned back on. Texts and selfies sent…
Many decades before there were cell phones
you had a pair of red high heel shoes,
of which you were especially fond
having the spirit of a dancer.
We had been to a rather dull party
in Liverpool 8, and, changing trains
at Hooton – from electric to steam,
as if in some cut-price sci-fi movie –
you stumbled and one of your shoes fell
between the carriage and the platform.
You limped from Chester General on my arm,
to a taxi, like an elegant, injured bird.
I returned to Hooton the next day.
A porter had seen and retrieved the shoe –
scuffed, and besmirched all over with soot.
You said, ‘Some glass slipper!’. ‘Some prince!’ I said…
The ballet recommenced. We watched the girl’s
destiny unfold like a Greek tragedy –
her hubris vanity, men, the joy of dance? –
and end, like Anna Karenina,
in front of a steam train.