The Dancing

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop--in 1945--
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing--in Poland and Germany--
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.

by Gerald Stern

Other poems of STERN (42)

Comments (2)

Good reminiscene.His left hand underhis armpit.So accurate memory after 72 years.Thanks for sharing.
The Dancing is a fabulous poem of joy and remorse. The bitterness of violence mixed with the sweetness of peace. The dichotomy of the dancing family in 'beautiful filthy Pittsburgh' juxtaposed with the dancing family in Poland and Germany illustrates how good may overcome evil given time to do so. However, the presence of evil in the final lines reminds us that it exist and cannot be ignored just as the 'God of mercy, oh wild God' can't be ignored.