Small Bites: poem, “Learning to Dance”

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Ginny and John hanging out as brother and sister before meeting up with their dates for the prom.

It’s a great month to create collections of poetry that reflect thresholds in our  lives. Gathering a meaningful collection of quotes or poetry and storing it in a journal or a laptop can become a sacred space or resting place to enter into when you just need to be reminded of those “certain” things that we so often forget- those things that change with the ingredients of time and experience, such as: awkwardness at 13 can lead to elegance at 30, stammering in middle school can evolve into eloquence in graduate school, and a first dance in adolescence can be the doorway into the school of life experience. Here’s a lovely example of this by poet, Charles Fishman. Feel free to sit in the hammock of his words for awhile:

Learning to Dance, 1956

For Marlene Broich

It was the 50s, and all of us

were kids, but you were older—

almost a woman—and you would

teach me to dance. You were

the dark-haired child in a family

of blondes, slightly exotic, wilder,

my best friend’s sister.

In your father’s basement,

you took my hand and showed me

how to hold you—how to hold

a woman. I was fourteen and knew

already how to be awkward. You knew

I was falling into shadows.

When I breathed 
your hair, I was no longer in the forest

but had broken through

to a clearing where tall grasses whispered

and swayed, where white-petalled daisies

and violet clover blossomed in profusion.

You moved me deeper into the music

and made a meadow spring up around me.

Your body showed me that I had strength

to change the moment, if only the quiet

power of a summer breeze . . .

When you said I would be a good dancer,

that I had rhythm

that I could swing,

I held you close: some day,

I would find the one

who would pull me near to her in love,

not mercy; I would dance with her

and learn her secret names.

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4 thoughts on “Small Bites: poem, “Learning to Dance”

  1. Thank you for a beautiful poetic expression of the fleeting passage over the thresholds of life and the ever expanding nature of connecting with the other.

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