Oh, Immobility, Death

* * *

Each dance step we execute is a slap in the face
of immobility. Are you light on your feet? Do you wear
tap shoes and feel an elasticity of sole and thus
you spring upward? What makes this more than
merely bouncing? Because you seek a chosen path.
Some tunes jingle inside, some tunes jingle outside.
This is when the extremities recall having been wings,
when the blue sky bends down to help us heavenward.
Just yesterday you weighed three hundred pounds and
now you're a feather rising on the notes of somebody's
whistling. What is music anyway? ask the scientists.
Being limited by what they know, they turn to math.
It must be counting, it must be numbers, it must be time.
And what is music's opposite? Silence? Almost correct.
Music's opposite is the tomb and so we dance to keep
the shadows back if only from the heart's dark corners.
The grave cannot stand a racket and even a tapped foot
is a form of boogie. You call it time? It is forever.
To spin on the pinnacle of one's genitals. To kiss
gravity goodbye. To bear the souls of birds in the belly,
as harmonies loop and dip behind your eyes. This one
likes Bach, this one Bop, this one likes the Beatles:
and so their feet are carried aloft, lungs throb and
palpitate, the pores pour forth their cheery tears
of pleasure. Even the skeleton chants a creaky song.
And immobility? It only has to wait. What is age but
the process of bringing the dancing inward? The heart
opens and two by two the dancing feet pass through:
an ark sailing the body's blessed blood to the grave.
You had your battle, little soldier. You danced a lifetime.
Those stones and monuments, those memorials and tombs:
without their weight the ground would hop. Oh, immobility!

* * *

Oh, immobility, how thoroughly you set yourself
against us. Gravity's buddy, entropy's pal.
Every stoplight becomes your flag. The erect
cop with his hand raised to articulate halt
wears your uniform, no matter the color; or rather,
he duplicates your gesture. The simple negative-
no, nein, nicht, nada, nyet-becomes a vote cast
in your favor. Silence is your national anthem,
a vulture your favorite bird, rust your flavor.
Meanwhile we trot: one foot forward, then the next.
Not straight, not crooked, but in a circle. Perhaps
we produce a few sparks. Perhaps we go toot toot.
My right hand extends to where it grips the shoulder
of the fellow straight ahead, perhaps my left grasps
the hand of the one jogging at my side. You get
the point. You might think that we are unhappy.
We are singing. True, it is nothing too lively,
but it is loud enough to let us shuffle our feet.
Immobility is the focus of our muted ruckus.
And the orchestra? Let's say a disembodied violin
hangs in the night air with its cracked bow jazzing
across the catgut. Scratch, scratch. You find it ugly?
It is the sum of earthly beauty. It plays the tune
that drives us forward. We have begun to love it,
just as we love the trudging feet, the beating heart,
the joys of flatulence, the rush of blood in the brain:
just a few of the roadsters on our daily racetrack.
I ponder this as I sit on my bed poking at my slippers.
Sunlight chips a morning wedge across the carpet.
Outside, the daily hammering is well advanced.
Time to get up, old carcass: to work, to work!
Set your feet among the flux! Drag your shadow
out across the land! It's time to mingle your shoes
with the buyers and sellers, one foot forward, then
the next. The reality? To bang your drum in the mortal
parade. And the dream? To believe yourself dancing.


From PALLBEARERS ENVYING THE ONE WHO RIDES (Penguin, 1999)

 

Poems by Stephen Dobyns

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Oh, Immobility, Death