linda nemec foster | dancing with my sister

6 10 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 40 | December 19, 2005

Dancing with My Sister for Deborah by Linda Nemec Foster

We’re not talking those crazy Polish weddings in Cleveland, where we both learned how to dance, clutching each other’s sweaty hands, galloping to the Beer Barrel Polka, and trying not to bump into Uncle Johnnie and his whirling Chicago Hop.

This is now, tonight, in a smoky bar in Detroit where two women dancing together can scandalize any pimp within range. Where the hotshot bartender can mix anything and has the wide eyes to prove it: bloody mary, wallbanger, a zombie with a spike of lime that will raise the dead.

Above the crowded dance floor, in the maze of catwalks, the geek of a lighting man (who reminds us of every boy in high school who fast-danced with his hands behind his back) shines the spotlight right on us. And we glow.

Girl, do we glow. Not for the memory of those distant high school boys whose faces we can’t remember. Not for the fluid desire ebbing around us on the floor and beyond where silent men sit in the dark. We glow for the raw truth of Aretha’s voice spelling out RESPECT;
for the way our hair curls down past our shoulders;
for our legs that can outdance any young thing;
for the miracle that we survived our childhoods—
mother’s obsessive cleaning, father’s factory shifts,
the Erwin Street mob of pre-juvenile delinquents.
We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.

from: AMBER NECKLACE FROM GDANSK, Louisiana State University Press, 2001

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