Listen Instead

Barzana Dawn Dance

Don’t call.
That’s the only thing. Do anything else at all.
But don’t call.
Eat too much peanut butter. Water the plants. Walk the dog in the pouring rain.
Don’t call.
Empty the suitcase. Start the laundry. Place the new pottery dish in its place.
Think about him again.
Don’t call. Continue reading “Listen Instead”

Drink Loose the Noise

What young self didn’t know was that cool is a lid that screws down tight on the swelling delight of yes.  From the edge of her ancient eye, older self notices women in the dark corners of the bar bouncing in their seats.  Girls titter near a post trying not to sway — girls who are surely women but seem so far from their fullness.

The dude in an oversized plaid suit and orange ponytail hollers into a microphone while the bassist ducks his eyes under his fedora and yanks on steel strings.  Two spaghetti-armed boys blow brass right through the back wall.

Older self stands and strips off her sweater.  She steps toward the unnamed sister, the one in a cherry red tank top and spiked gray hair. She touches her arm and draws her onto the space in the center of the room.  The worn Persian rug there is a far cry from a welcome mat, but carpet is no great challenge.  Years earlier, she sent her young selves scurrying off to road-test every surface. Concrete, rooftop, mountaintop, pier.  Boardroom, waiting room, snowfall, bed.  Every floor is a dance floor when it’s time to dance.

It’s always time to dance.

She pops her hip and snaps her hand, beckoning to the one across the room who’s been having trouble sitting still.  They are three now.  Soon they are five.  Soon nine.

Low ceilings press in on the battered cafe.  Amateur pencil sketches hang crooked the walls. Light shifts and a gleam slices across the bowl of the saxophone.  Soon it’s a glittering ballroom.  Soon the pulse of the Cotton Club on a Saturday night.

The wall of dudes collectively holds confines itself to straight faces and non-committal postures until one man, pushing 70 easy, steps into and sheds 10 years. The young women form a ring of cool, turning their taut backs out for protection.  The rest shimmy and grin knowing there is no outside and no in.  Guarding one’s soft parts is a survival skill for certain,  but the older ones have learned the taxonomy of danger.  They can differentiate battlefield from playground now.  It wasn’t always so clear.

Here, the belly is free to roll towards the snare’s smash and crack.  That’s lightning for sure, but older self unfurls anyway inside the grounded body of her scars.  She twists the lid loose and drinks the song’s bright rain.  She is growing older still.  Time is running out, so she runs out into it.  She fills her bones until they spill over with dance.


 

This Dance

Simone Forti

Only after the herd thunders past, then the chewing snapping locust swarm, then the boulder storm, only after all of these have carried themselves off into the collapsing distance does the gesture peek out from its hushed cave.

The ribbon unfurls from my wrist. A glass staircase bears the weight of fear. A feral pup  in its winter wool climbs to the cliff edge and readies its throat.

The wing, first opening, closes.

Opens again.  Continue reading “This Dance”

Frame

swing dance feet

He walks the dog while I pull on tights and boots. He leads me to the car then drives us through mist and rush hour traffic to a studio were a purple chandelier glitters in greeting.

We stumble through box step and salsa until motion from inside carries us like small waves lapping. Slow, quick quick, slow. His elbow lifts just enough to suggest an invitation. I twirl once around a maypole of light before alighting one beat shy of our next shared step.

The instructor praises us on our gaze. He can’t know our determination to master seeing. We speak across night, three years of two homes, voice as proxy for proximity. When we are together, we sometimes sit near each other and pluck up the threads of formerly disembodied conversation and spin them around the shape of us, looking, looking. We fill our stores with images that will warm us later. These eyes are accustomed to bridging the gap.

On this polished floor, our bodies have a new exchange. Slow, slow, quick quick. While I listen through his skin for the lead, it’s his eyes that signal our direction. These lessons build on a language we already speak. When parted, we fall into step. When still,  we are dancing.

 

Dance Myself to Sleep

The remarkable sifter and curator, DMF, over at SyntheticZero posted a comment to Everything is Music with a link to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon playing Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.

On the eve of an unwelcome anniversary and bracing for another night fighting off the devils that eat sleep, here I am in bed now, singing and dancing — yes, dancing alone in bed! — with the warmest thrill from smile to toes.

Now this word from Ernie & Bert:

Thank you for the most buoyant lullaby a girl could hope for, DMF. (And thank you, lambies.)


 

 

70. Things I Can See: Her Beat, Mine

Two Women Dance

The girl who drove the Volkswagen bus plastered in Dead stickers fell off the face of the earth after graduation. West is what I heard. Community bordering on cult, new name. I pictured her in a homespun dress drawing water from the well for backwoods apostles.

She popped up on Facebook — as we all do — 25 years later. No bonnet, no copper kettle. Her profile shot is blazing female Gumby, bronzed flesh arched in a yoga bridge against the setting sun. The other photos are strappy heels, flashing sequins, rhumba beats and a man in a fedora testing the limits of her psoas muscle by pressing her stretched leg flat against his chest before dropping her into a dip.

Continue reading “70. Things I Can See: Her Beat, Mine”

64. Things I Can Lift: These Arms

Last night, I danced at my cousin’s wedding. Danced like a toddler does, right up front.

Like this.

I’m guessing everyone else out there enjoyed Sara Bareilles’ music video for “Brave” at some point in the past two years. I just today discovered it on About Face, a website promoting positive body image.

Just as she intends, Bareilles’ video shivers open a smile that leaks tears.

Remember the game you used to play in the doorway? You stand facing out and press the backs of your hands hard against the doorjamb. You push there, muscles working, and count. Twenty, thirty, one hundred. Then you step out, and after a breath, marvel as they rise.

As if invisible threads.

As if a secret deal to suspend the laws of physics.

For most of the hours in most of the days, I push hard against something. The clock, a hunger, my doubts, someone’s needs.

The deadline breathing fierce at the base of my skull.

The flashing cursor, the buzzing phone.

The undertow.

It seems a whole life becomes this pressed angle, wedged here in a narrow doorway. I barely recall the name for air.

Until song calls me out, and shows me again the secret to tricking gravity.