Poem from:

Bad News, Good News, Bad News by Edward O'Dwyer

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The Whole History of Dancing

O'Dwyer, Edward

When Mikey did it, we all went into grief.
After some time, we left grief.

Like grief was a classroom where we’d taken a course,
listened to our own saturnine thoughts,
recounted memories, and received
a certificate for doing so,
we left, all but you.

You seemed only to become more philosophic
at first, nothing more, so we didn’t worry,

because we were all allowed to be somewhat changed
for the ground having run out beneath
his Nissan’s wheels that day.

We all will have thought morbid things,
imagined ghastly things,
how the car might have hung gracefully
in the air for a moment, for instance,
in the manner of a gull, before its fast drop,
the Atlantic swallowing it up and licking its salty lips.

You were losing the grip of yourself
in small, gradual increments, we agreed.
All the ladishness was draining out of you, we could see;
the smiling rogue, the chancer.  You’d still come out

for a night on the town, of course, but with each pint
we thought might draw you back to yourself
you only seemed more unreachable,

your head bowed, standing on the edges
of dancefloors, all the girls, at last, able to move
unimpeded by your groping hands,

the swing of your pelvis,
the enquiring rub of your groin on them.

We waited and we hoped,
and then the day came, and we were failures.

You’d spent ages trying to slip quietly
out of existence by the time you slipped
your head through a hangman’s loop and leapt,

and all that time we’d been an audience,
waiting instead of catching you,
hoping instead of cutting the rope.

Here we are now, thinking
of the snap when the slack ran out, and imagining
the dance your body must have danced,

the loneliest in the whole history of dancing.

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