New York Hearts by Kyle Hemmings

Kyle Hemmings' lyrical flash about a New York ballerina.

Behind the fading pulse of day, Zin is not dying. And although wounded by a thousand loves, she can still perform a petit saut while thirsty. Or "spot" on her own demand, execute near flawless rotations of the head, fingers forming exquisite egg shapes, or almost touching hips, the not quite blonde hair pulled taut. Her Spanish "fourth position" is untenable.

When a relationship ends, she multiplies in mirrors, leaves fresh blood streaks. She's in love with a gay dancer named Lev. Between rehearsals, in hushed conversations when he stumbles on long words, mutters fragments of his childhood, his eyes drift and turn star-ward. She can see herself as incredibly small and dancing inside his eyes.

At the tail of a crowd jaywalking to dusk, Zin shuffles or sidesteps, imagines herself as the perfect lead for Firebird. Who, in this crowd of scherzo-disbelievers, she wonders, can catch her?

She shares an East Village apartment with an older woman who collects ceramic birds from Sunday flea markets. The birds are remarkable in their stony silence, the way they can pierce the eye of a broken room. The woman has a thick accent and her country no longer exists. But at the apartment, her chipped birds stay loyal.

After three subway transfers, after performing warm-ups with girls who remind her of mechanical dolls with thin lips and glassy eyes, after fasting so she can be nothing but soft bone and air, Zin messes up a demi plié. She has flunked the audition.

In an abandoned tenement on Avenue A, five stories up. she stands before a window, shattered god knows how long ago. How easy to dive without a partner. Or she can become limp, stay apathetic forever. Instead, she picks up a glass shard and considers it running it deep into the underside of a wrist. A pink pattern of scar tissue is already there to guide her. It reminds her of a zipper. How easy it would be to bleed out or become sucked in. The body as a collapsible theater of glisten and glide, of last great works. For the self only. But then a rustle of wings, a soar from rooftops, a flutter and scrape. Who can this be? The reflection of a bird in its solo flight, its angle of free-form, distracts her. She won't die today. Each life will get a second act. Even if it means yesterday's tea bags and toast crumbs for breakfast. At home, her roommate's silent birds are multiplying.


  1. this is written in such an interesting style, loneliness, longing, not fitting in, never giving up?

    well done

    Michael McCarthy

  2. The story of the almost, but if only, next time for sure. An interesting perspective of the loser in the audition lottery who refuses to give up, that winning "ticket" is just around the next corner.

  3. A dark piece with hopeful ending. Well done, Kyle.

  4. ooh, a lyrical and shadowy ballerina mends her wings for flight. Exquisite.


  5. Wow! A stunning piece. I'm rather glad you rescued her at the end, if only for a while.

  6. Beautiful writing goes without saying. Captures words like the ballerina captures movement, with such rapture. Good thing you rescued her at the end. I would have found it too sad.

  7. what a lot you manage to pack in to this short piece! I'd love to meet the old woman with the birds whose country no longer exists – very evocative.

  8. Cezarija AbartisMay 26, 2013 at 2:30 AM

    I clicked on 5 stars, and I thought it worked, but then it disappeared. I kept trying--and not succeeding.

    I liked it five-stars-worth.

  9. This is so unique and beautifully written! Well done!

  10. I love the scar as a zipper. Is she saved at the end? I don't think you've actually given us that. She is so alone. Beautifully rendered.

  11. Moving and hopeful. The idea of the roomate's birds was well done. This is one of those "wish I'd written that" pieces. Very good read.