Behind us, balloons drunk
with helium waltz together
as light on their feet as Arthur Murray.
Beaded curtains sway invitations
to the foxtrot, the tango,
and a fan turns the air
like the perfect dance partner.
Everything says we are ready.
Everything says this is what
we have waited for
all those nights our pillow
partners held us to them,
barely touching our waists,
leading us among phantom
couples who dip and glide,
fluid and seamless.
But tonight the boys stand like bayonets,
planted together, angled apart, arms crossed.
Their white Oxford shirts
battened down, starched stiff
as the box steps they strain to remember.
They inspect the wall, the ceiling,
the parquet dance floor
for patent leather mines
waiting to detonate at each misstep.
Who knows, after all,
where danger might lurk,
the crinoline skirt, the anklet sock
its lacy edge only half folded down.
From Sex Education (Iris Press, 2004)
Used with the author’s permission.