Degas at the Ballet ("On the Stage," 1876-77; Art Institute)

Mardelle Fortier

Everything billows: chiffon gowns, long hair.

Arms circle over heads, blues and whites become fluid magic.

Nothing can be pinned down: not the silky

slippers, nor the light.

Everything is vanishing, as flying legs leap offstage

and a smile lasts only as long as a note.

Bright blossoms, satin dresses, dance your joy

and hope that Degas can capture changing lilac shades

and regal youth; dreams of eternal music.

In this illusion, the painter lives, eyes trained

on a scene that can last

only if his brush is pure and sure.