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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rita Dove
Rita Dove
The author of numerous collections of poetry, Rita Dove served as the Poet Laureate for the United State from 1993 to 1995...
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Dancing
A Peacock in Spring
by Joyelle McSweeney
Brokeheart: Just like that
by Patrick Rosal
Complaint of Isadora Duncan's Scarf
by Charles Jensen
Latin & Soul
by Victor HernŠndez Cruz
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942
by Philip Levine
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
The Dance
by Humberto Ak'Abal
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
Two Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance
by John Cage, read by Susan Howe
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Borderline Mambo

 
by Rita Dove

As if the lid stayed put on the marmalade.
As if you could get the last sip of champagne
out of the bottom of the fluted glass.
As if we werenít all dying, as if we all werenít
going to die some time, as if we knew for certain
when, or how. As if the baseball scores made sense
to the toddler. As if the dance steps mattered, or thereís a point
where they donít. For instance wheelchair. Heart flutter.
Oxygen bottle mounted on the septuagenarian's back
at the state ballroom competitions—thatís Manny,
still pumping the mambo with his delicious slip
of an instructor, hip hip hooray. Mambo, for instance,
if done right, gives you a chance to rest: one beat in four.
One chance in four, one chance in ten, a hundred, as if
we could understand what that means. Hooray. Keep
pumping. As if you could keep the lid on a secret
once the symptoms start to make sense. A second
instance, a respite. A third. Always that hope.
If we could just scrape that last little bit
out, if only it wouldnít bottom out
before they can decode the message
sent to the cells. Of course it matters when, even though
(because?) we live in mystery. For instance
Beauty. Love. Honor. As if we didnít like
secrets. Point where it hurts. Of course weíll tell.
About this poem:

"I'm a fanatic ballroom dancer, and Latin rhythms are usually invigorating. But I find mambo simultaneously joyous and poignant for two reasons: first, the pause in the rhythm (stop!-2-3-4) suggests that something's always missing—a hole in the fabric of celebration, perhaps. And, secondly, the memory of Manny dancing with his beautiful young instructor, oxygen tank on his back, suggests a way to plug that hole, even though we know that some patterns—disease, age—are relentless and will grind on long after the dance is done."

—Rita Dove






Copyright © 2013 by Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.
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