Wednesday, August 28, 2013

So beautiful...and I have always loved Rita Dove

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 weren't all dying, as if we all weren't 
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 there's a point 
where they don't. For instance wheelchair. Heart flutter. 
Oxygen bottle mounted on the septuagenarian's back 
at the state ballroom competitions--that's 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 wouldn't 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 didn't like
secrets. Point where it hurts. Of course we'll 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

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