When she goes on pointe and unfolds her arms,
he recognizes the position. He saw it so many times
in his Catholic school years, on so many walls,
and he knows the beauty that comes from suffering,
supposedly, the transformation and transcendence
from the body to something more, supposedly,
but on the cross Jesus never smiled like she does,
a smile that tries to suggest it’s all right, it doesn’t hurt,
it’s worth it, all is forgiven. We crucify our daughters
so cleverly, having them carry their own crosses
up the hill, and he wonders how the story has changed
and if Jesus willing played the Sugar Plum King
for our entertainment, thinking he was beautiful,
in pain, waiting for our applause and our approval.

Joseph Mills has published six collections of poetry, most recently Exit, pursued by a bear which consists of poems triggered by stage directions in Shakespeare. His book This Miraculous Turning was awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family. Last year he published his debut work of fiction, Bleachers: 54 linked fictions, which takes place at a youth soccer game.