Dancing in the Royal Hotel

This reading was recorded by Alessandro Mistrorigo at The Arts Box (www.theartsbox.com), in Vicenza, Italy (13th of October, 2013).

Read by Chris Mann on 13 October 2013

Dancing in the Royal Hotel

Was it a foxtrot or waltz?
We weren't much good at it
but that wasn't the point,
you teetering in your heels,
me awkward in a dark suit,
two small-town newly-weds
who'd driven miles and miles
down lonely country roads
to dance in the Royal Hotel
on a misty Friday night.

There was hardly anyone there.
Do you remember the waiters
in black bow-ties and tuxedos
who leaned across a balustrade
and watched our every move?
And how the elderly pianist
kept on playing Summertime
and glancing over his shoulder
as if longing for someone
to step onto the dance floor?

You wore your party dress,
still my favourite, even now,
the one as black as mascara
with white Botticelli flowers.
Their fragrancy was you.
I was watching your hands,
candle-lit, slender, supple,
breaking open a bread-roll
when out of nowhere came
love's tender, amorous gasp.

Next thing the gilded mirrors,
the dark mahogany wainscot,
the waiters just weren't there
as haltingly we started to step
and glide across the floor.
I smelt your skin's perfume
and felt your body's touch
lightly coming and going,
so joyful I'll never forget
the slow swirl of that dance.

Does music wake your shades?
Each time that Summertime
sings in my contemplations
you in your flowered dress
show up across the cutlery.
You're flushed, exuberant,
a village where the faithful
celebrate a healing vision.
I'm smitten with regret to think
we didn't do this more often.

Next thing, the candelabra,
the lonesome at their tables,
the blaze of hot white lights
above the pianist returns.
For we are dancing again,
dancing as if the energy
that floats the earth, the stars
and each dead atom in its grip
frees us to breathe and dream
and dance love into time.

from Home from Home: New and selected Poems (Cape Town: Echoing green Press, 2012)

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