The Waltz in Five-Four Time



We come to the windows
on rainy nights.
Dogs bay behind us.
We press our hands and faces
against the panes.
The waltz beyond the curtains
lures women and men
to brazen whirl,
hands so daring and confident,
slim waists turning,
strong legs keeping time.
We hear the beat
but not the melody,
we see the figures
but not their visages,
barred by lace and lock,
senses numbed by leaded glass,
by the storm behind us.
Do they know we are watching?
The servants pass by,
trays heaped with wines and sweets.
No one comes to the curtain,
no lady, alarmed, cries out
and points toward us,
no one observes
           our hunchback silhouettes
in lightning fire.
No carriage came to take us.
But then, we do not dance.
We, the beggar’s ragg’d children,
unchurched half-breeds.
They dance to threes,
we only hear five/four in thunder time,
lopsided beat of the lame man’s waltz.

A howl! A yelp! The dogs are coming!
We will be torn to bits if we do not run.
I leave an angry handprint,
tar-black on their white-washed shutter,
before we dash for the darkling moors.
One day we’ll sing at their misfortunes.
One night we’ll dance upon their graves.


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