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“I started dancing young, pulled off the sofa by my older cousin Emy so we could shake to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. She, among many people in my life, taught me to dance for the hell of it and dance to celebrate and dance to grieve. My whole life I’ve had to work it out through the body—by which I mean poetry too.”
—Patrick Rosal

Brokeheart: Just like that

Patrick Rosal

When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ 
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.  
and I confess I’m looking 
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn 
is peeking into my third-floor window 
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed 
for three weeks before I slide 
from sink to stove in one long groove 
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched 
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver 
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back 
and just like that I’m a lizard grown 
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man 
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone knows 
my heart’s broke and no one is home. 
Just like that, I’m water. 
Just like that, I’m the boat. 
Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world 
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just 
what comes between the dancing. And bam!, 
my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s 
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true 
I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days 
and no one ever said I could sing but 
tell me my body ain’t good enough 
for this. I’ll count the aches another time, 
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back, 
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones, 
I’m missing the six biggest screws 
to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind-
rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I’m a flung open door. 

Copyright © 2014 by Patrick Rosal. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 18, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Patrick Rosal. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 18, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Patrick Rosal