CHRISTINA M. RAU
Salsa On Pier 54
It's a step, like a lean,
to the side, with one foot,
but it's the opposite foot
when you face each other.
Then a shift of weight,
to the other side,
the other opposite.
And then front, and then back,
or first back and then front
if you're the man.
Then you raise your arm,
if you're the lead,
to signal the turn,
and then she turns
as you turn her.
It's a spin on the toes,
if you're the woman.
The skirt should fly up,
but not too much.
The wind off the water
should catch it.
Sea legs should be shifty
on a pieced-together
dance floor; they should be
light and airy and smooth.
It's a four-count
in a box
on the Hudson.
It's not the same kind of love
as all those other loves.
It has nothing to do with romance,
Finance or fiancées.
It has nothing to do with rearing,
Rearranging, coddling, or care-taking.
It has nothing to do with long term,
Egg and sperm unity of any covenant
It has nothing to do with therapy,
Monogamy or commitment ceremony.
It has nothing to do with registries,
invitations, showers, or legalities.
It's hyperactive, too.
It's malicious, malnutritious,
manic, depressive, one-sided,
shucked and grooved,
unending, grieving, thieving,
lustered and slick.
It's the definition of love sick.
It's not the same as that other
kind of love, all those other loves,
the ones involving reciprocation,
intonation, hand-holding, laundry-
folding, forever bonding,
the ones involving wooing,
cooing, soothing, and praising,
the ones involving appeasing and pleasing.
It is, instead, all that other love
all rolled into one sonic boom
blast bombastic blow
to the nailbedsearsnosetorsogumsthroat
too thick to swallow
without a little coaxing.
Death by Fear of Tornado
The wind blows hard all night.
You dream of mushrooming ash above the house,
the damp stairs to the basement. When you were young
you crouched there waiting for the roof to lift away.
How silly. As if our lives could be opened up like a box.
A true storm rips up the ground,
plowing down and down until you realize
you're on the ceiling of the cloud, you're flying
and behind you, the funnel cloud is clasped
around a handful of seeds, dropping them
into the furrow ploughed.
You're flying and I'm right there in the doorway,
asking if you think the garbage cans
will be alright. If you think I ought to go
out and bring the lawn chairs in.
I get why it seems, in the space
of two breaths, we've passed out
of bodies, into steam. The baby drops
her inhaler on the floor. God, look
at that downpour. I try to reach out
of anguish. You keep kicking
the walls down.
Death by Domestic Arrangement
wisdom attained yet?
allegiance to form
of a fir tree
tired voice inching
which is just
a category error
Room For Gift Wrapping
What can I say about a room
intended primarily for wrapping gifts?
A friend once told me about such a room:
the owners requested it,
the architect designed it,
and her husband built it.
I think about it from time to time:
the built-in cabinets of honey-colored wood
holding rainbows of ribbons,
tape dispensers, scissors
for right- and left-handers,
rolls of wrapping paper furled tightly,
squares of hand-pressed rice paper,
folded tissue papers and decorative bags,
tasteful cards for every occasion,
a closetful of boxes arranged by size and shape.
Who could want such a room?
Who could not want one?
The eye's natural focus is infinity.
It requires muscular tension
to accommodate it to close vision.
Similarly, only darkness can relax the iris.
The eye's finest adjustments are reflex.
Binocular vision creates our sense
of the third dimension--
how images appear in our view,
fading into consciousness.
In my dream I knew where I was,
though I couldn't name the place.
While the fog drifted and lifted,
I wandered among rows of statuary
placed on a green lawn
in the eternal poses
of Classical and Christian art,
their hard, knowing surfaces
greater than the sum
of my grief and happiness.
Instead, accept my art
of instantaneous fragments,
of the fountain that is my life,
not capturing the motion,
but what it contains
in its ceaseless outpouring,
in a single direction.