by Joseph Mills
After lacing their skates,
they edge onto the rink and begin
circling, more stable there
than the sidewalks outside their homes,
one foot crossing another,
years of practice allowing them to move
in their coordination, their bodies having
internalized the physics,
the arcs and angles, vectors and velocities,
like memorized math tables
or church songs from childhood that come
to mind unbidden at a note.
The saying goes being good at pool indicates
a youth misspent, but this is
the payoff for having grown up on skates,
these moments of grace,
life’s griefs, angers, disappointments,
in this breeze of their own making.
A friend writes to me about dancing and
quotes Kurt Vonnegut about being beautiful
in the water and I remember the hours
I spent in a lake as a child, pretending
to play football underwater or doing kung fu,
moves I now recognize as dancing.
Maybe this is why I never thought it odd
that NFL wide receivers studied ballet,
or Jackie Chan talked about loving Astaire.
And I remember a poem I wrote years ago
about balancing in a river, the water
braiding around me and I understand it now
in ways I haven’t before. I understand
what my friend is saying and realize
what I’ve been trying to say for years.
It’s right here. Something about water.
And how it makes us beautiful. Or something
about friendship. Or writing. It’s right here,
something, floating, just beyond my grasp.
The bottle was almost gone when Shane agreed
to give us a demonstration of clogging. He said
his father had been a champion and taken him
to competitions for years. He said a platform
would be best, but the farm’s wooden floor
was good. He began stomping and jumping,
then suddenly, swaying unsteadily, he said
to his partner, “Catch me, Betsy! Catch me!”
and she reached out, and they fell together,
laughing, entangled in a joyous age-old dance.