Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Best Slow Dancer

The Best Slow Dancer
by David Wagoner

Under the sagging clotheslines of crepe paper
By the scond string of teachers and wallflowers
In the school gym across the key through the glitter
Of mirrored light three-second rule forever
Suspended you danced with her the best slow dancer
Who stood on tiptoe who almost wasn't there
In your arms like music she knew just how to answer
The question mark of your spine your hands in hers
The other touching that place between her shoulders
Trembling your countless feet light-footed sure
To move as they wished wherever you might stagger
Without her she turned in time she knew where you were
In time she turned her body into yours
As you moved from thigh to secrets to breast yet never
Where you would be for all time never closer
Than your cheek against her temple her ear just under
Your lips that tried all evening to tell her
You weren't the worst one not the boy whose mother
Had taught him to count to murmer over and over
One slide two slide three slide now no longer
The one in the hallway after class the scuffler
The double clubfoot gawker the mouth breather
With the wrong haircut who would never kiss her
But see her dancing off with someone or other
Older more clever smoother dreamier
Not waving a sister somebody else's partner
Lover while you went floating home through the air
To lie down lighter than air in a moonlit shimmer
Alone to whisper yourself to sleep remember.

This poem is one long sentence. I'm not sure why it does so, but it appears to be one long narrative with incredibly detailed imagery. Attending a school dance is probably something all of you could remember. Wagoner captures the mood and scene perfectly. He contrasts the festive and exciting with the fact that it is a high school gym. I especially like his reference to the "sagging clothesline of crepe paper". This imagery strikes up a chord with nostalgia. The idea of seeing that girl who stands out in the crowd, the one who draws your attention as 'the best slow dancer' is something I can definitely relate to from my earlier days. Another interesting phrase he uses is "the question mark of your spine". When I read this i vividly saw a question mark laid over the spine of an individual with their back curved over resembling the symbol. I really like how Wagoner points out that she's the best but then goes on to point out that he is not the worst, as if to calm and comfort himself. Interesting poem that appeals to nostalgia.


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