In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots I have never seen a post-war Philco with the automatic eye nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did in 1945 in that tiny living room on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming, my mother red with laughter, my father cupping his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum, half fart, the world at last a meadow, the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us screaming and falling, as if we were dying, as if we could never stop—in 1945— in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away from the other dancing—in Poland and Germany— oh God of mercy, oh wild God.
From Paradise Poems by Gerald Stern, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 1982,1983,1984 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission.
Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His recent poetry collections include Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), and Save the Last Dance (2008).
Date Published: 1982-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/dancing