blackbirdonline journalSpring 2009  Vol. 8  No. 1
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Transitions for Dancers When Dance Is No Longer an Option

You two-step towards me, Charlotte,
          broom in the crook of your arm.
I grab the dustpan, and we clear
          the garage of dead daddy long-legs,
leaf litter, dog hair, lug a half-dozen LPs
          and the record player to the wooden table
next to the washer and dryer, where
          your mother, the lovely Lynda,
former shim-sham queen of Leeds,
          folds and smokes. It’s 1968,
and this is not the summer of love.
          Triple-time, bombershay, heel-toe
and cramp-roll—this summer she teaches
          us to tap. Tacks in the heels
and toes of my Keds, I fumble,
          can’t quite get it, but you—
your mother’s daughter in split-sole
          Capezio patent leathers—patter and shuffle
to “Singin’ in the Rain.”
          The candidate and his assassin
make a sad pair on Cronkite, but
          we’ve got rhythm, and during one dank week
learn all the routines from Stormy Weather,
          then An American in Paris as French students
barricade the Sorbonne. They shout,
          Be young and sing out. The old
world is behind you—turn to the new.
          This jig times a stomp, slave dance
goading the stiff step of the Irish rover.
          Shirley Temple and Bojangles on a back lot
at MGM, dancing as if it mattered.
          Ah, Lynda, flushed with the fever
of a cancer that will kill you, you snap off
          the music in August, tell us the next steps
are not so clear. It’s only props and poses,
          after all. Above the washer, a photo:
it’s you, Lynda, in hungry, damp
          England, the decade after the war,
syncopating across the stage
          in a trifling ruffle of pale silk, living
for the steady thump of applause,
          a live band, a warm pint and a smoke.
Raw on my throat, a stinging on the wind,
          smoke—a signal to the natives to dance.  end

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