Poem introduction

My husband and I took up ballroom dancing and a whole series of poems emerged because of that, forming the nucleus of a book that is called American Smooth. I will read that title poem for you.

American Smooth

We were dancing - it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride - such perfect agony
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn't notice
how still you'd become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?) - achieved flight,
that swift and serene
magnificence,
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.


From American Smooth (W W Norton & Co. Inc., 2004; originally published in The New Yorker on 3 February 2003), copyright © Rita Dove 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Rita Dove

Rita Dove Reading from her poems

1Ö

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2Shakespeare Say

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3Parsley

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4The Event

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5Courtship, Diligence

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6Straw Hat

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7Dusting

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8Roast Possum

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9The Oriental Ballerina

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10After Reading Mickey in the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed

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11Canary

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12The Island Women of Paris

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13The Bistro Styx

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14Demeter's Prayer to Hades

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15Persephone, Falling

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16Lost Brilliance

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17Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

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18Freedom Ride

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19The Enactment

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20Rosa

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21All Souls'

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22American Smooth

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23Fox Trot Fridays

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24Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target

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25The Castle Walk

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26The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europe

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27The Seven Veils of Salomé

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28Chocolate

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29Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove

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Books by Rita Dove