Manless I dance; my shadow follows me.
I can shift its weight, whirl with indifference,
entice feathered canter in a rhapsody
set by my softly unfettered cadence.
I refuse to curtsey in a hooped frock
to a shadow that leads with its bizarre burden
dancing on my tender toes, designing mock
blame for all apples and original sin.
I woo tempo, drift through rhythmic armor.
I throw off fig leaf and pregnant halo.
I window dance a shadowless fervor
for men, not demigods, until I glow.
I’ve watched to see if anyone visits this yard,
but no one kneels amid these scattered plots.
No one comes to clear grime from headstones:
look, touch, say aloud the names engraved,
brighten death with yellow button mums.
Chainlink threads between the playground
and this tiny graveyard that snuggles homes;
wooden fences corset backyards from gravestones.
I could go in: find the oldest grave,
the newest date, clean moss from beloveds,
remember families who farmed this land,
walk the empty spaces left for generations
to be buried beside their ancestors.
I could go in: gather buttercups amongst
the weeds to set upon graves, cry over
this lot, bestow it with a name. I could go:
the gate lock rusts; its chain clinks
against metal fence, chants go, just go.
I lift the chain, slip one leg in, tilt
my body through the gap between gate
and fence, hesitate as the uuuowl of
a cat who has nested in this yard cautions me.
A wandering ice cream truck ding-a-lings,
twitter floats from the park next door,
softballs kaflump, children whush in swings.
My daughter’s merry-go-round giggle vibrates.
I retreat; rush to gather my little girl.
Twilight borders dusk while others go,
but I stay to play catch with my child.
The red and white rag ball we throw
leads to homeruns and soccer goals.
As the arc of the ball becomes invisible
we focus on the path, listen to the vacant
swings become the night’s wind chimes.
We stop for the light at Saturn and Palm.
Pigeons fly off faded roofs,
land on a man’s khaki shoulders.
Pigeons wander at his feet,
peck his boots, flick airborne,
berthing on his outstretched arms
in charcoal rapport. One tinted rose
and jade lands in his close-cropped hair,
joining a snowy cohort already perched.
Man and pigeon reach out until beak
touches mouth. “Ah,” I say, “he loves
the wild cousins of doves.” My passenger
flicks her toasted-rose fingernails in the air,
peruses me, this man, these birds,
twiddles her birthstone emerald earring,
and says, “what a total waste of time.”
We wait for the light at Saturn and Palm.