Dancer

~ after Paula Rego, “The Dance” (1988)

So late in the season, so blue
on this beach pearled by the moon—

and still it seems I haven’t learned
how not to be so stiff, or what it takes

to be taken into these circles that move
with apparent easy regard— how everyone’s

hand slips so easily into another’s, how
each seems to know perfectly the role

they should play. The woman’s gold-sheathed
hip pleats into the man’s, and then a child

flowers in that space between them. Soon the child
herself grows into mother, into crone. Above them all,

only the ramparts of the old fortress seem un-
changed. But the one that holds herself apart lifts

one edge of her dress as if testing its weight:
she can still choose, can’t she? She can twirl

in silence, observe how the silks of her dress
open and float like a parachute in the wind.

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