I unmake my pointe shoes; unpicking the past from their skin, burning frayed edges. They
come apart with coaxing, my blade filleting the shank like I’m easing flesh from a fish’s
backbone. Heel on heel, I cup the toe box in my left hand, pressing down with my right.
In the stiff resistance I find memory; nights backed in silver where we breathed in our
stasis and exhaled sorrow. In the soft release, I mark the arch and three-quarter the shank.
When I peel the onion of the toe, it’s like the ribboned layers of my epidermis being
stripped away.



[Cassandra Atherton is a widely anthologised and award-winning prose poet and scholar of prose poetry. She was a Harvard Visiting Scholar in English and a Visiting Fellow at Sophia University. She co-authored Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton UP, 2020) and co-edited the Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne UP, 2020) with Paul Hetherington. She is a commissioning editor for Westerly magazine, associate editor of MadHat Press (USA), and Professor of Writing and Literature at Deakin University.]

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