Rockettes practice in the basement
of St. Paul’s—box jumps, zaps, tipping, strutting—
for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The Rockettes! They are a real thing!
They come in and out the church side door
otherworldly like all dancers
aglow even in the dirty streets
postures so profound they look haughty
(If you yourself are haughty they seem haughty
if righteous righteous.)
Haughty righteous showgirls
coiled down into the bedrock, bubbling beneath
nave, narthex, tabernacle, sanctuary
tap heels flying, dance captain hollering
gestating below the sanctuary in autumn
until they burst out, like flowers in reverse
into the winter air.
And it is certain there are more than a few boys
plunked onto pews at St. Paul’s
happier to know there are Rockettes below
than there is God above.
In a low unquiet time a priest once told me
my job was to follow Jesus and die.
What precisely made him say this I don’t recall.
Father, I think my duty in life is to play
hours upon hours
Your job is to follow Christ and die.
What does it mean to follow Christ
and what to die, and why did
all the power of the universe whittle down
go limp and need hefting about anyway?
To save your soul? All that fuss for
the unseen spirit, for a rumor of a thing
that does who knows what?
Rockettes perform up to four shows a day
ninety minutes each, six costume changes
bears, snowflakes, wooden soldiers
struck by cannon fire.
They put on antlers and pull a sleigh.
They work hard as sin in that church
on Columbus Ave to give you
a stupendous show on Sixth
near halal meat and Sean Hannity.
They kick eye high
up to 300 times a show
burn 10 billion calories
take ice baths after
call each other ladybirds
ladybirds lets swoop to lunch.
They seem nice.
At the end they transform
into a living Nativity, and a poem
about Jesus scrolls down a screen.
Jesus who maybe did not come
into the world to save your soul
but to start up a season
where the ladybirds perform for you.
And where your only true duty is to
To let the spectacle settle
into the dusty manger of your heart
and gasp, a red flush of incredulity
the countless kicks, a cascade of taps
uniform as the Red Army
profligate sparkle, antlers riding high
camels, crib, mezzanine
orchestra, footlights, high sheen.
To breathe it all in
and die right there
and then go to Tiffany.