Practical Considerations of Dancing, for Open Link Night

The mystery isn’t in the feet,
left and right or left and left,
but in hand on small of back,
silent pressure, a presence
of body through clothes.

In fourth grade, we danced
in gym class, making squares
on green tile floor, lunch tables
pushed aside; this was our barn,
the record player called our tunes,
our movements. We were the interior
of a clock; allemande left, honor
your partner. We knew nothing
about honor then, or we were
learning it. We were too young
to hurt each other much.

If you wonder how you’re dancing,
you’re dancing badly. But I could
no more abandon this watchfulness
than I could unravel my skin,
walk around like that for a while.

In eighth grade, a boy, deer-nervous
and spiky-haired, asked me to dance.
I said no because I knew he was just
making fun of me. I fled to the restroom,
looked in the mirror to make sure I was
unacceptable, all wrong, and thus, right
to decline, right that there was no way
anyone could see me on the edge
of a gyrating circle and want
to pull me closer.

Sometimes you’re wrong
when you’re dancing
or not dancing.

Sometimes you only learn
the mistake later on, once
the streamers have been
taken down, all the punch
drunk, the boy gone home
or somewhere like home.



For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.


19 thoughts on “Practical Considerations of Dancing, for Open Link Night

  1. Thanks, Jennifer! I seem to be in a very first-person, confessional mode lately, I think it’s because when I first resumed writing (going on 4 years ago), I picked up on a lot of disapproval among literary publications toward always writing as “I.” I internalized that for a long time, and now it’s very satisfying to let “I” speak in a few poems, and not have to throw my voice.

  2. really nice story telling in this…ugh on the boy and his games…or on us in thinking they are playing games and us missing an opportunity….true if you have to think of the dancing you are not doing it well…its a training of the body to react in the moment…but then again, sometimes we are wrong…

    • Like when I try to meditate … Am I doing it right? Is my mind blank enough? Oops, now I’m thinking. 🙂 And in retrospect, I think the boy was serious, and I missed an opportunity. Just couldn’t see it that way at the time.

  3. on the edge
    of a gyrating circle and want
    to pull me closer.

    That’s really going to stick with me. I’m glad you’re not always throwing your voice. Literary publications do a lot to stifle creativity. I prefer to be wild and ‘ousider’ :).

    • Thank you so much, Anna! And you know I love a good persona poem, but it’s a relief to “just say it already” now and then. I get that not every poem should be about “I,” but I’ve enjoyed the past couple of weeks, writing that way after mostly stifling it for so long.

    • Thank you, Patti. I’m so glad to know that it touched a chord. I think it’s almost universal to have times like that, though we always think there’s some group of “cool kids” who are not experiencing these bumps and bruises.

  4. hedgewitch says:

    Very evocative of everything that makes us human–a trip back in time to that adolescent cliff so terrifying in its sheer drop into adulthood, childhood wrapped around us as we fall.

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