Thursday, February 12, 2015

American Smooth - Rita Dove

We were dancing - it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride - such perfect agony,
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn't notice
how still you'd become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?) - achieved flight,
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.

American smooth, a category of ballroom dance, is the setting for this poem about losing oneself in an activity and in another person.  Working through pain to find ecstasy, to become detached from the earth, "perfect agony."  Even though I am not a dancer, I know that feeling of perfect agony through rehearsal, and a moment of detachment, from other physical musical pursuits, such as marching band.  The moment when you lose yourself, and the earth, in your pursuit of perfection is truly magical and I feel this poem captures it exactly.

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