Mourka, the Dancing Cat

George Balanchine throws
a ball and studies his cat—
her motion’s off-center,
she twists and jumps and lands
without a sound.

His wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq,
had been his ballerina, his muse, his star,
until polio grounded her.
Now George leaves her alone.

And she watches Mourka.
She recalls the gaiety
of the pas de chat,
the fast pirouette.

Tanaquil will write of all
the feline tricks that Balanchine stole.
But these are merely tricks—

The real Mourka, the one Tanaquil knows,
sits for hours next to Tanaquil.
She rarely jumps. Her posture
seems most beautiful when she
is still. And together, the two
listen to Afternoon of a Faun,
And as the warm cat falls
asleep in her lap, Tanaquil
starts to perceive —
the steps too small to notice,
the landing no one hears.