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.

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

Rita Dove

Rita Dove Downloads

1Ö

£0.89

2Shakespeare Say

£0.89

3Parsley

£0.89

4The Event

£0.89

5Courtship, Diligence

£0.89

6Straw Hat

£0.89

7Dusting

£0.89

8Roast Possum

£0.89

9The Oriental Ballerina

£0.89

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

£0.89

11Canary

£0.89

12The Island Women of Paris

£0.89

13The Bistro Styx

£0.89

14Demeter's Prayer to Hades

£0.89

15Persephone, Falling

£0.89

16Lost Brilliance

£0.89

17Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

£0.89

18Freedom Ride

£0.89

19The Enactment

£0.89

20Rosa

£0.89

21All Souls'

£0.89

22American Smooth

£0.89

23Fox Trot Fridays

£0.89

24Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target

£0.89

25The Castle Walk

£0.89

26The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europe

£0.89

27The Seven Veils of Salomé

£0.89

28Chocolate

£0.89

29Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove

£0.89

Books by Rita Dove