width=61 height=87> Voracious Verses


Rita Dove
featured poet

American Smooth

We were dancing - it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride - such perfect agony
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn't notice
how still you'd become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?) - achieved flight,
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.

 2006 Rita Dove

From American Smooth (W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2004; originally appeared in The New Yorker,
February, 2003).  Used by permission of author.

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