Image by Fred Viebahn

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

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 Reading from her poems

1Ö

2Shakespeare Say

3Parsley

4The Event

5Courtship, Diligence

6Straw Hat

7Dusting

8Roast Possum

9The Oriental Ballerina

10After Reading <i>Mickey in the Night Kitchen</i> for the Third Time Before Bed

11Canary

12The Island Women of Paris

13The Bistro Styx

14Demeter's Prayer to Hades

15Persephone, Falling

16Lost Brilliance

17Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

18Freedom Ride

19The Enactment

20Rosa

21All Souls'

22American Smooth

23Fox Trot Fridays

24Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target

25The Castle Walk

26The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europe

27The Seven Veils of Salomé

28Chocolate

29Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove

Books & cds by Rita Dove