Stone Telling

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And I'll Dance With You Yet, My Darling

by C.S.E. Cooney

Body, my darling
          For that time, age 11
                     When I hated your big feet
                               This nose I called blob
                                         The blobbiness in general
          For every zit demolished
                     Cheap razor scrape
                               For every bloody ankle
                                                   I thank you

Body, my darling
          At 15, I thought you were God
                    These breasts, God
                              These hips he worshipped
                              These hands, these lips and the subtle
                                        Tricks they learned
          Every ribbon in your hair
          Every bell on your bare ankle,
                    Like a cathedral

Body, my darling
          At 6, you captained spaceship trees
                    At 8, swam with mermaid feet, bound up
                              In rubber diving rings
                                        At 9, rode your bike without training wheels
                                                  In Cortez Park, crying a little
                                                            Bewildered but exhilarated
                                                                      By mastery

Sometimes you dream of running
          The way others dream of flying
                    I grieve to wake you, tethered
                              To my strolling amble
                                         My pleasant pace that eats miles,
                                                            But slowly

Body, my darling
          Any incline you see, you want to take
                   Like the British took Bunker Hill
                             You tremble at a sidewalk, want it rough
                                                                                Right then
                             Naked skin on baked cement
                                        Asphalt to untender callus
                                                 Glinting glass and ragged toenails
                                                          Entwined together, making of each other
                                                                                        A kind of summer

Body, my darling
          You never did like your hair combed
And who can blame you?
          There was always too much of it
                    Too much of you, us
                              Fraying so gloriously at the edges
                                                 And always, always tangled

We tend to overflow our waistlines
                     Eat to excess
                                Laugh like the thunder taught us
                                          Back in our desert days
I thought it finer to laugh
Finer to love you
          Than wallow in bitterness
                    But, oh, I meant to do better by you
                                                              Than this

I meant to teach you graces
          Bravura to replace bravado
                    Leanness to underscore lavishness
                              A high cool gloss to finish you
                                        Yes, I meant to make you cool

And I meant to dress you properly
                               Everything the best
But, Body, you refused
                             Crying you were too hot for clothes,
                                      And won't I take you to the seashore
                                                                              For dancing?

I cannot go, my Body, my beauty
          With all the sorrow in me
                   I cannot take you dancing
                             Where just anyone can see

Know this, beloved
         My source of inaction;
                  My love was made fragile by fear
                           By a jackass screaming
                                     Out his rolled-down window
Reduced from personhood
          By an egg shattering at our perfect ankles

I would not subject my enemy to such scorn

                              Is it any wonder I must swagger you in secret?
                                        Keep rapier wit, written brow
                                                  These ears, these eyes, these freckles
                                                                        This ulna, this ink stain

          And dance in darkness
                    With only a thin silk of candlelight
                             Between us.

C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in a well-appointed Rhode Island garret, right across the street from a Victorian Strolling Park. She is the author of How To Flirt in Faerieland & Other Wild Rhymes and Jack O' the Hills. Her novella "Martyr's Gem" was featured at GigaNotoSaurus in May 2013, and her short story "10 Cigars" appeared at Strange Horizons in July 2013.

Photography: self portrait, from the poet's personal collection.