Ann Arbor Review
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LEARNING TO DANCE
Aunt Florence always began each lesson with the box step.
The waltz didn't seem quite right
For me or my time:
but I'd smile, try again.
Left foot here, right there: cha-cha-cha.
I'd need to relax, learn to lead, she'd say, as she led me
To and fro.
Upstairs, I'd close my door
Hoping she wouldn't hear the radio
Or me stomp about, as I tried to imitate
How the older kids danced
On American Bandstand,
Certain I mostly looked silly.
We hadn't yet heard of Saigon or Hanoi;
Didn't yet dread the evening news.
We could still focus on the sound of thirty-threes.
Music on, Mrs. Dowdy's hand in the mime, we'd foxtrot:
Flo on the couch, laughing, approving.
Lesson done, I'd head to town, play pinball;
Ride the Flying Horses,
Hoping to grasp that elusive brass ring.
By the time I'd return, she'd be lost to grin.
The only time I saw joy in her was during those lessons,
And I'd never let her down.
With the volume up and chairs pushed back,
Her arms steadied mine
As I edged forward.
The news is not good: refuges huddle
In a muddy field. Channel surfing,
I'm drawn to their story,
Again and again.
Like me, many in jeans; jackets
With a team logo.
Many in traditional dress
Has survived a similar dread
I had left family and familiarities
Without fear: traveled cross-country;
Setting down the remote, I set out
To walk our quaint,
Midwestern main street.
Seeing my reflection
In a store's window, I'm shaken
By the finality
Of lineage and chance.
Joseph Murphy, Ypsilanti, Michigan
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