28 Dec 2009

The Pleasure of this Dance -- Jonathan Nicholls

[1956–current, English]

If you want to take my hand,
cover the arcs and stripes of my lifelines
with your own,
don’t ask me
to do
the military two.

I don’t want to shuffle
like a well behaved pedestrian
to the right
to the left
to the right again
turn and direct
a mortal kick.

I don’t want to be bound up
by neat routines
done before
done again;
boxed in,
a product;
a man on a factory floor,
eye on the clock
waiting for the clamour to stop.

If you want to take my hand
for the pleasure of this dance
then come with me
the bent and narrow.


I want to dance
like a mother weeps at the birth of her child
like she wails if that child goes to an early grave.

I want to dance
like kindling burns
like hot fat spits onto unsuspecting skin
    like a bruise
        like a deep wound bleeds

I want to dance
like a chick beats its way out of a shell
    like that same chick – a hen – decapitated
    chased death round the yard.

I want to dance
like fireworks appear
like a tree in a storm
like the ocean’s appetite.

I want to dance
like a lunatic whispers
like a rumour of war
like a condemned man’s last request

I want to dance
like a child plays on its own
like a bird flies freed from a cage
like a dolphin,
    like a shark,
        like a whale.

I want to dance
like a virgin dreams of being loved
like a man shakes as he comes
like a hymen splits.

I want to dance
like a bullet’s sleep is broken
like a drowning man comes up for air
like the dogs of Pompeii are sleeping

I want to dance
even as the dance floor empties,
even when the music stops.
And with or without you
I’m going to dance.

Source: Porter, D & Millett, J (eds) 1989, ‘On Struggle Street – An Anthology of New Poets’, Poetry Australia 122, South Head Press, Port Melbourne.

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