a poem by C.A. Shoultz
I saw a dancer in an empty street,
Alone in some dark hour of the night.
The streetlamps glared their cold cruel white light down,
And made bright islands in the general gloom.
I was escaping from a noisy bar
Where drinks and music had my time swept up,
And I was focused on my Twitter feed
When I glanced upward briefly—there she was.
She wore a leotard of blackened silk;
Her hair was done up in a tidy bun.
She did not say a word, but merely moved,
Her body twisting, flowing in its time.
Across the lakes and ponds of light she danced;
The shadows and the glow upon her fell
In fitful swells and motions as she moved
In regular and tidy leaps and bounds
And pirouettes and arabesques of grace.
I had been dancing once or twice before;
I’d gone out a few times to halls and clubs.
But this was dancing of a different sort.
She moved with order and with purpose strict,
Was regular in all her leaps and spins.
No music played, but as she danced I thought
I could perceive the tune to which she bent.
Yet suddenly she stopped, and turned my way,
And stretched her hand out to me in the dark.
Fear gripped me; who was I to interfere?
Her dancing was immaculate, pristine.
While I? I did not know the steps or spins.
My clumsiness, my ignorance would mar
Her beauty and perfection—would I dare?
Yet still she stood there, poised, with outstretch’d hand,
And now her fingers bent in beckoning.
So, setting down my phone, I caref’lly stepped
Until I joined her in her isle of light.
Our way was slow and fitful at the start.
She was a patient teacher, while I tripped
And stumbled o’er my feet a time or three.
I felt frustration build, and thought to quit,
But each time she would gently place my leg
Or move my arm into its correct place.
She was a patient teacher, and at length
My confidence grew in my body’s path.
I slowly found I could move on my own.
The time went on, the night waxed deeper yet,
But still we danced, and with each minute past
I learned from her, and took her teaching well.
Our motions now became much more complex,
And much more formal, ordered and exact.
Again I stumbled once or twice, and she
Again was patient, teaching without words.
So did I learn, and as I learned she was
Less teacher than a partner to me now.
And as the stars burned brightly overhead,
We danced intensely;
She and I a furious motion made,
We took turns leading;
As the two of us persisted, I thought I
Could hear the music to which we both moved:
A chorus divine
That rose in the night,
As though all the planets were chiming.
At once the night, however, was undone.
I spun away from her, and looked about,
And with surprise beheld the rising sun.
She smiled at me wordless, breathing hard,
Then bent her torso low in a deep bow.
I bowed as well, the wind blew gently by;
It carried with it April’s sweet soft scents.
She glanced off towards the sun, which burned blood red,
And nodded, and then turned, and walked away.
“Wait!” I called; she turned, and smiled gently.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Eliza,” she responded, turned again,
And left me standing.
I watched her go, then suddenly could hear
More music, different than what had been played.
But it rose sweetly,
So I stood on toes
Dancing anew as light streamed downward.