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Ten Years After My Mom Dies I Dance

The second time I learned I could take the pain

my six-year-old niece, with five cavities

humming in her teeth, lead me by the finger

to the foyer and told her dad to turn up

the Pretenders—“Tattooed Love Boys”—

so she could shimmy with me to the same jam

eleven times in a row in her princess pajamas.

When she’s old enough, I’ll tell her how

I bargained once with God because all I knew

of grief was to lean deep into the gas pedal

to speed down a side road not a quarter-mile

after scouring my gut and fogging my retinas

with half a bottle of cheap scotch. To those

dumb enough to take the odds against Time,

the infinite always says You lose. If you’re lucky,

Time grants you a second chance, as I was lucky

when I got to hold the hand of my mother,

how I got to kiss that hand before I sprawled out

on the tiles of the hallway in the North Ward

so that the nurses had to step over me while

I wept. Then again, I have lived long enough

to turn on all the lights in someone else’s kitchen

and move my hips in lovers’ time to the same

shameless Amen sung throughout the church

our bodies build in sway. Oh magic, we move

through the universe at six hundred seventy million

miles per hour even when we are lying absolutely still.

In Brooklyn, a man can prove he’s a sucker for ruin

by dropping an old school toprock on the G platform

at Metropolitan despite the fifty-some strangers

all around him on the platform. Sure, I set it off

in my zipped up three-quarter coat when that big girl

opened the thunder in her lungs and let out her badass

banjo version of the Jackson 5, all of which is to say,

thank you for the kind of wacky anguish that leads me

to a sticky floor like this late-night lounge under

a century-and-a-half-old bridge where I’m about to twirl

a mostly deaf woman by the hand and listen to her whisper

a melody she’s making up to a rhythm she says she feels

only through her chest, how we will hold each other

until the lights come up as if two strangers

couldn’t dance this long to the same sorrows

and one body couldn’t sing two songs.

from Brooklyn AntediluvianFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Patrick Rosal Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.