fly like an eagle
because more than anything else,
rhythm and harmony find
their way to the inmost
soul and take strongest hold
upon it, bringing with
them and imparting grace.
—Plato, The Republic
The cranes are flying ...
In Chicago, Petersburg, Tokyo,
Hit the floor running
(the communal dancefloor
Here, there, at intervals,
Sometimes rotted linoleum
awash in beer,
Sometimes a field across which
the dancers streak
Strains of premeditated art,
is now improvisation,
The desperately new, where to the sine-curved
Yelps and spasms of police sirens outside
The death and cremation of history,
Until a boy whose hair is purple spikes,
And a girl wearing a skull
That wants to say I’m cool but I’m in pain,
Get up and dance together, sort of,
Young allegorists, they’ll mime motions
of tortured ones in basements,
Of cold insinuations before sex
the jubilance of the criminal.
The girl tosses her head and dances
The shoplifter’s meanness and self-betrayal
The boy dances stealing the truck,
Shooting his father.
The point is to become
a flying viper,
A diving vulva, the great point
Is experiment, like pollen flinging itself
Into far other habitats, or seed
That travels a migrant bird’s gut
To be shit overseas.
The creatures gamble
on the whirl of life
And every adolescent body hot
Enough to sweat it out on the dance floor
These jeans, these earrings, maybe if I flip
My hair and vibrate my pelvis
Exactly synched to the band’s wildfire noise
That imitates history’s catastrophe
Nuke for nuke, maybe I’ll survive,
Maybe we’ll all survive. . . .
At the intersection of poverty
The planet's children—brave, uncontrollable, juiced
Out of their gourds—invent the sacred dance.
“Saturday Night” from The Little Space:
Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998.
Copyright © 1998 by Alicia Ostriker.