V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





The summer my father waltzed
out of our lives,
I found an old hat buried
in my mother's closet—
black satin, stiff with age,
stitched with tiny silver sequins.

My mother, still in flannel robe,
hair uncombed, said it was the Charleston hat
she'd worn as a girl when she danced
to the big jazz bands—years before
she met my father. Show me, I said.

She put it on and began to dance,
steps tentative—a convalescent
learning to walk again.  Her arms
flapped like bird wings.  Her hands
made circles in the air.  She knocked
her knees together, in, out, in, out.

Faster and faster, feet beat time
to music I couldn't hear.  Sequins
sparkled in her hair.  She twirled, spun,
and seemed to fly, for that moment
airlifted out of her life.

She threw off her robe and shimmied.
Rows of fringe swayed across her red satin
chemise.  Feet kicked air.  Sparks shot out
from under her shoes.  My mother
danced on fire.  The crowd moved back
to give more room.  The band played
just for her.  All eyes were on my mother,
and all around her fire, fire, fire.

© by Diane Lockward


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