"Let's Face the Music and Dance"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 23 2010 6:56 AM

"Let's Face the Music and Dance"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear J. Allyn Rosser read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Ginger standing in her beaded gown.  
It drips and hangs from her frame
like the mood she's been drooping in
when Fred catches up with her—
both suicidally forlorn. Something
coiled in their long, separate forms
lets them without warning lean in,
begin to glide and swirl like an ache
in the muscle-marrow, if there were any;
healing motions, similar to what
filling the hole in your heart
would feel like if you had one. 
They undulate over that lonely deck
like a sea in thrall to its moon,
in such unison as only liquids know,
their eyes drinking shadows, heads back
tossing them down, his slick shoes
kicking off lightbeams, her dress with each
twirl and pause wrapping itself around
both her legs and his, slowly, heavily,
in arousing, languorous embrace,
and when her arms lift at last above
their dull despondency, Fred gets it
right in the kisser. One sleeve,
heavy with beadwork, slams him 
like a rock-studded whitecap—
but you can hardly see it happen,
even if you've read all about it
and you're watching with held breath;
the camera angle arranges for only Fred
to see stars that don't dance, only Fred
knows he's reeling from a blow
that would flatten John Wayne.
But Fred was dancing, and it had been
going well, even if Ginger's heels
were invisibly sticky with blood,
nothing would stop these two from finishing
this take, from charming the air out from under
the breath of everyone while Ginger's feet
skip over, caper into, on top of, their pain—
these two whose undauntable, headlong,
unwavering verve we learn of is as lovely
as the dance they turn more deeply into now,
as Ginger's perilously animated sleeves fling
and flash and swing, and Fred even now not once
squinting, not even ever once leaning away.


J. Allyn Rosser teaches at Ohio University and is the author of Foiled Again. She teaches at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.



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