Poetry Fiction Issue

The Topaz Room

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More than one couple at the Topaz Room this evening
May have quarreled on the long drive over in the rain
About whether moving to a drier climate
And making new friends will leave them happier.
Still they agree, for this evening at least,
That dancing is something they’re willing to try,
Dancing that seems to them like a metaphor
For life lived as it should be lived, in couples,
Under the sway of music they both enjoy.
For them it may be a distant goal, but one day,
If they keep pretending, and luck is with them,
They may feel what the other dancers are feeling now,
Both those favored by luck with the gift
Of moving easily to the music and those
Who still have to watch their feet.
And among the clumsy, isn’t it partly luck
That some can laugh at their awkwardness
While others continue to be embarrassed?
Maybe if luck descends on the quarrelers,
They’ll learn at least to regard unanimity
As a virtue wrong for their private commonwealth,
Too close for comfort to one-party rule,
To tyranny. Dancing together won’t mean
They believe that they’re closing in
On a goal long sought. They’ll be taking their turns
Deciding what music has come from afar
To find them here, just where it left them,
Taking one step forward, one step back.

Carl Dennis's Practical Gods received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2002. His most recent collection of poems, Unknown Friends, was published in April.
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