The Music We Dance To Poem

The Music We Dance To Poem By Rebecca Seiferle!

For instance, the last time I saw my friend
alive—though I didn’t know it was the last
time, or I would have said something, put a wedge
in the revolving door, to stop its panes
from breaking up her sandy hair, turning
her reflection out into the New York City street.
But perhaps not, for I have always liked the apocryphal
St. Francis who, asked how he would spend his last day,
answered “keep on hoeing the garden.”
So, perhaps, knowingly, I would still have given
Beth the flowers that others had given me—
an over-generous bouquet, mingling the blooms
of summer, and of spring, their conflicting
fragrances, odd lengths of stem, falling over
into the porcelain box full of water.

I didn’t know what to do with them; I was leaving
for Seattle and couldn’t imagine carrying
that severed field, sloshing, to the other side
of the continent. Beth’s arms were empty,
she had helped pick the flowers, was,
in a sense, transporting them back
to their origins, back to the impulse
that had first sent them to me,
and she gathered them up gladly,
maneuvering their fragile coronas
through the narrowness of the glass door.

I don’t mean to suggest her going
was anything like Persephone being swept out
of view, the flowers falling back
to earth, dissevered, dying.
It was a real cab she got into,
not the one we invented the night before
to escape a boring crowd. When we talked
about this habit people have of disappearing,
we meant how our chums from college had wanted to go home
too early, though it wasn’t to “home,” but some hotel
or friend’s apartment; we had all been able to meet, precisely,
because we were away from ‘home,’ had vacated its premises,
assumed a somewhere else, ‘behind’ or ‘ahead’ of us—
where we would be awaited with longing,
like those small grains Demeter hoarded
to outlast the winter. In my hotel room, we kept on talking
while I packed. Then, a moment of quiet—like the wound
that uprooting leaves in the earth—began eroding
into canyons, abysmal rifts. Much later,
I was to connect the ease with which she had slipped away
to the cancer, its blood red seed beginning to sprout,
as it must have been possible, so long ago,
to hear the grasses being crushed,
beneath the rim of that black chariot wheel,
as the Lord of the Underworld coasted into view.

I kept packing, cramming everything
into my suitcase—reminded of how Unamuno said
we were all travelers who stuffed whatever
we could into our luggage, then trimmed away what
did not fit—though it was the night itself
that the clock’s fluorescent hands were pruning
down to nothing. In the morning, when she ran
toward a cab, pulled away forever from the curb,
I remembered how, in college, we always danced together
to I Heard It Through The Grapevine,—the same way
I would hear of her death, called
from a warm bath to the phone,
thinking it was a joke, as the chilling water
dripped and pooled on the floor around me.

The last time I danced with her,
we were holding hands, twenty of so of us,
in a line of bodies, whirling through a darkened student union,
the Charlie Chaplin movie flickering
on the opposite wall, mingling our hands, our faces,
with bits of the tramp’s twirling cane, his sad expression.
I followed Beth’s white blouse, an ordinary white blouse,
as we rushed ahead, but she didn’t pull me along;
it was the momentum of the circle itself, the force
of those leaping bodies, a merry-go-round of flesh, linked
hand to hand to the one before and the one after—a wheel
like that other wheel, black spokes, rim of iron, moving
faster and faster until the velocity, the whip effect
at the end of the line, began to snap us off,
one by one, flying into the darkness.

The Music We Dance To Poem

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