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Family Woman

Such awkward dance partners,

this longing to follow my own pursuits,

this longing to be ever available to you.

Both want to lead.

They step on each other’s feet.

One waltzes, though the other

has put on rock and roll.

One loves eye contact, the other

loves closed eyes to better feel the music.

And yet they whirl and two step every day,

taking turns swinging and dipping and bowing.

I used to think they were rivals.

Now I know neither wants to dance alone.

Even now, they’re pushing back the furniture,

rolling up the rug. There’s gonna be a real

fine hoedown tonight.

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Beat. Blending. Bolero. Breakaway.

Before bed, my daughter and I

do a word search. The theme:

“Social Dancing.” At the same time

we notice how closely related

Dancing is to Distancing.

 

The hidden words all snuggle

in their thirteen by thirteen square.

Brush. Cha-cha. Foxtrot. Polka.

They cross each other, touch each other,

overlap, congregate, connect.

Rumba. Samba. Slow Dance. Spin.

 

How I miss doing what these letters

are doing—getting lost in a crowd,

then emerging less as a self and

more as a spiral turn, upside down

and backwards, or heck,

showing up as a straightforward sway.

 

Oh I miss that glorious not knowing

where I begin and end, surrounded

by others as we swing, swivel, tango, waltz.

 

 

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I no longer have the shiny black shoes

with metal taps on the bottoms—

 

though if I did, they would perhaps sit

in the back of the closet along with the wigs,

the boas, the long black gloves.

 

How I used to love the sounds they made—

fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lap ball change—

such a shiny, happy silver sound

that used my own heart as a metronome.

 

I was never much good, but I didn’t care,

I held out my arms with wrists upturned just so

 

and shuffled and clicked and smiled

for no one but myself. I think of that

today as I dance in the office alone,

 

it’s a quiet affair without the right shoes,

and I am clumsy with lack of practice,

but laughter makes a fine music

for everything inside me dancing.

 

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Only the Dance

 

 

At the still point of the turning world; neither flesh nor fleshless

—T. S. Eliot, from The Four Quartets

 

 

Waltzing in the kitchen,

I ask the sauté pan to dance.

It is an awkward affair,

neither of us is really sure

of the steps, neither of us

knows if the other is leading.

In the end, I curtsey. The sauté pan

retires to the stove top

and says nothing. There

is no applause. The music

that was not playing

continues not to play.

 

The deer in the grass

who did not turn to watch

the strange dance in the house

continue to eat the lawn,

which I know by tomorrow

will seem taller, though

I have never seen it grow.

 

In me, something so still.

I struggle to name it,

say “nothing,” and I bow

to the nothing, know it as true,

then it changes its name

to “everything.”

 

There is so much

I don’t understand.

On the stove, the butter

skitters across the pan.

It smells salty, sweet.

The pan and I are partners again.

I lift it by the handle

and swirl it slowly,

then return it to the grate.

 

I don’t dare be still now,

lest the butter burn.

Whatever is still in me

remains very, very still

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It starts in the shower at the Hot Springs Pool.
I am singing about the water, how good it feels,
so warm on my shoulders. I am aware there
are other people bathing in nearby stalls,
so I sing it on my breath, a little embarrassed,
but by the time I flounce into the parking lot,
I am singing in full voice to my children to please,
get in the car now, it’s time for lunch. I sashay to avoid
the mud puddles, and unlock the car doors
with a minor flourish of my hand. The car, it hums
a drone for the rest of the days characters
to harmonize against, and so, it seems, the mountains do.
They are singing in the key of February, which is a white,
steep chorus I usually do not hear over the sound
of the radio. But today, it is clear and rousing, and the snow
joins in on the long ride home. Even my son points out
how loud the flakes are as they sing against the panes. At dinner,
I chant to my girl, would you like some pears,
and the offer echoes off the roofbeams. She affirms
with an arpeggio of giggles and so I waltz to the pantry
where the pears croon a late summer sweetness right
out of the jar and onto her plate. It is, perhaps, always
this way, I think, each thing singing its singular song,
and every step a step in the dance in which we all meet
and separate and meet again, turn away and meet again,
and I can’t help but wonder what keeps us
from in every moment wildly clapping, ovation after
ovation, our hands fierce and staccato with praise.

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