I Once Watched a Ballroom Dance Competition on PBS

In some other time that I cannot now place,
I once watched a ballroom dance competition on PBS
until it all began to make sense — the hairspray
and bright blush, the spangles and flesh-colored
nylon panels — as necessary equipment for
what was certainly a sport, like ice skating
without blades, or dressage in which the partners
are both at least nominally of the same species
and one does not ride atop the other’s back,
except in rare moments when, say, the woman is
lofted onto the man’s shoulders, spun across
his upper back, then set down with a gentleness
that must be at least a bit deceptive. Bones
are involved, and sweat, and ragged breath,
as well as a workmanlike decorum that denies
any notion of sex. This, even as they dance
around it, sex, with roses in their teeth,
in a parlor ringed by judges, held up by
an artifice that is stronger, more fragile
than any of us is ever allowed to see.

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